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Article published April 17, 2013
Find allergies balance
Leland Clark Butler
I am writing in response to the April 11 Butler Eagle article “Petition takes aim at food allergy policy.” The article discusses the back-and-forth between the Seneca Valley School Board and district students over the new food allergy policy. The action taken by the school board is unfortunately a growing necessity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated an 18 percent rise in food allergies from 1997 to 2007, and the growth of food allergies seems to be continuing, with an estimated one in 13 children having some problem with food allergies. (See www.foodallergy.org.) There are many theories about this increase, but where there is disagreement over the cause of the increase, there seems to be no dispute that the numbers are growing. My own family has fallen victim to this unexplained increase. My 3-year-old son has developed major allergies to nuts, milks and eggs. Yet, there is zero history of food allergies on either side of the family. The entire extended family had to learn how to keep my son safe. And our family is not alone; we frequently run into other parents and grandparents in Butler and Allegheny counties who are learning how to deal with food allergies. The bottom line is that unless we can find a way to provide separate schools for children with food allergies, this substantial group of students is going to have to be kept safe in our current schools. It will take some time to find a good balance between keeping the children with food allergies safe and minimizing the inconvenience to other students, but that balance will come in time. I support the efforts of the Seneca Valley students to keep the discussion on this issue open. We must continue to review the policies put in place to make sure they are common-sense solutions. If the board’s policy goes too far, it should be scaled back. During this discussion, that will continue. Parents and students who do not have any food allergies would do well to understand that while food allergies are manageable, they also are very scary. There are few things more frightening than the thought that if your child takes one bite of the wrong food, he could end up dead within minutes. But in the end, if all sides just stay focused on reasonable solutions, none of the students will have to go hungry.