A recent Montreal school board decision to allow for open food choices in children’s lunch boxes has caused shock and disbelief amongst Quebec parents, specifically those parents and their children who have severe food allergies. Food Allergy Canada and other groups dealing food allergies, have expressed concerns. The comfort and security for all, when safeguards are in place, cannot be underestimated. The ability to go to school each day and focus on learning and new experiences should not be clouded by hesitation and the unknown.
This new and isolated practice leads to important questions: WHY? and HOW?
The WHY for the open food policy is provided by the school division:
“In a memo to parents……..said school staff will not confiscate any food brought to the school as it is up to parents to decide what their children eat.” (www.metronews.ca May 31, 2017)
The HOW can be answered at the provincial level. Quebec has no province-wide framework for school food allergies. To date, all school divisions in the province have set up food allergy policies that provide for food safety and special eating areas. However, the absence of a provincial framework has left open individual school division responses to this important area that ensures food safety for all.
This controversial and uncomfortable situation leaves many questions and concerns. Will other school divisions follow suit and modify their food allergy policies? Quebec is one of the only provinces without a uniform framework for food allergies. The recent change in policy might very well be the time to move toward a provincial framework and policies for food allergies.