Tis the season for parties. Class parties. End of season parties. Celebrations of all kinds. This is a terrifying time for parents of children with peanut, nut and other life-threatening food allergies. And equally terrifying for the adults planning parties for severely food allergic kids. If you’ve never had either experience, consider yourself lucky!
My oldest child has successfully avoided dying from his peanut allergy for almost 20 years…with some help. He’s off in college still not dying from a peanut reaction. I call that a win. We’ve had a few (very few) close calls and the ER visit when I learned he had a life-threatening peanut allergy still haunts me. I will never forget the “I’m going to meet Jesus” look on his face as I raced him to the hospital. We are blessed to have successfully navigated this terrifying condition for so long. I know there are many who haven’t.
All that is to say, I have some experience throwing parties for food allergic kids and I want to tell you it doesn’t have to be scary. If you have been roped into happily volunteered to organize a party and are worried about food allergies, sit back with a cup of coffee/tea/wine and let’s get into the meat of this thing.
How Serious is this?
First, you should know that the chances of a kid dying on your watch are slim. You can read up on the statistics here and here and, if you are having trouble sleeping, here. Of course, none of this means you shouldn’t be vigilant. Please be vigilant. It wouldn’t be a life-threatening allergy unless some people died, so…be vigilant.
Your first stop in this party planning should be the parent(s) of the allergic kid. Try to understand where the child is in his/her understanding of their condition. Is this a 3-year-old who needs someone to read the ingredients on everything or a 12-year-old who’s got it well under control and really doesn’t need help? (Does any 12-year-old think they need help?) Ask the parent what they expect from you as the host. In my experience, most parents of allergic kids will have already thought out alternate treats for parties and are teaching their children how to avoid the triggering food(s), so you probably won’t be expected to do much.
Sharing is Caring
Second, take the information you get from the parent and share what is appropriate with the other parents in the group. Would the parents prefer to not have treats with nuts at all? While I think that is overkill, try to respect those wishes. Just keep reminding yourself of how terrifying it must be for these parents to send their kids out into a world filled with death threats at every meal.
The easiest solution to many parties is to just create a menu that everyone can eat and ask parents to bring specific items. This also avoids the necessity of singling out the food allergic child. I can assure you the child’s parents are going to love you for this!
It is really pretty easy to avoid peanuts and nuts these days. Go ahead and make the call to not offer food that has been produced in a facility with nuts. Again, I think it is overkill, but why not? It’ll make your life easier the day of the event and ease everyone’s mind. Dairy allergies are trickier, but, refer back to step one and ask the parents about the best foods.
Finally, try not to be the crazed food police. People may will make mistakes but try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t actively trying to harm a child. If someone accidentally brings something the child can’t eat, quietly let the child know that s/he shouldn’t eat the item. That’s it. Don’t embarrass the kid or the parent. There’s no need.
While you are navigating this tricky area, remember that Mitsy has the tools you need to organize a successful class party. Easy to navigate class lists and volunteer sign ups make party planning a snap.