How a sign alleviated stress about food allergies and intolerancesOctober 16, 2014
How a simple sign alleviated stresses about food allergies and intolerances
This weekend I was a wedding and saw a simple sign that caught me by surprise. I was impressed at how respectfully and easily it addressed the needs of guests with food allergies and intolerances. Here is a picture that I took of the sign:
As you can see, the caterer had taken a moment to identify which potential allergens were in the different foods that would be served that evening. Guests were easily able to make informed decisions about what they could and could not eat.
Standing in line, marveling at this helpful information (and taking a picture of it), a woman behind me said “I’m always nervous at things like this. I ask the server about what’s in the food and they usually either don’t know, or look like they’re guessing”. She had never before been to a catered event that made it so easy for her to know what she could and could not safely eat. In what is now a fairly regular occurrence, my heart went out to her and the many parents, children and staff that I work with who have known food allergies and intolerances. How sad to be confronted with this lack of accurate information at every wedding, bar/bat mitzvah and social gathering!
For more than a dozen years our summer camp in NH has proudly opened its doors to children and young adults who cannot eat peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, dairy, albumen, soy, citrus, garlic, mustard, or other potential allergens. And for many years at every mealtime the entrances to our dining hall have greeted our community members with similar signs. Our large whiteboards clearly proclaim the different entrees and side dishes available, along with potential allergens in each dish.
Four members of our incredible Dining Hall team, including Keira, our chef in charge of preparing meals for campers and staff with food allergies and intolerances
Because we have so many community members with dietary restrictions we go to the extreme in creating a safe summer camp for children with food allergies and intolerances. On our deep bench of experienced culinary professionals we have one person, Chef Keira, who cooks all of the food for people who might need a specially prepared meal. She has a separate set of pots, pans, knives, cutting boards and even fry-olator that are color coated so that they are never accidentally used to prepare the wrong meal. Our dining hall team is re-trained every June on the best practices for eliminating the possibility of cross-contamination as established by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. When our campers leave campus on a trip or tournament our counselors understand how crucial it is for them know who is allergic to what, and who is eating what. The end result is that we spend a lot of money each year on new epi pens, and proudly throw them away unused when they expire.
We have been making signs like this one for so many years now, and it’s such an easy accommodation to make. It’s also such an important one. I love that our mainstream, traditional summer camp in NH is the home for so many young people allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, egg and dairy, or unable to eat gluten. I hope signs like this become a trend, and that safe summer camps for kids with food allergies and intolerances become the norm throughout the country.