Kids breathe easy in peanut-free Coyote Creek
DOUGLAS COUNTY – When you step into the lunchroom at Coyote Creek Elementary School you can’t help but notice the different choices kids are faced with. What kind of pizza? Should I get a salad?
Principal Gigi Whalen estimates that there are 15 – 20 students who have a little less of a choice. They have nut allergies. “This is about life and death for these kids,” Whalen says. Coyote Creek is the only 100% nut restricted school in the district.
For some families the policy is the entire reason for coming to the school. “People used to pick on me and shove peanut butter in my face,” says Drew Dodge Talich, a 5th grade student. This bullying prompted his mom Tammy to sit with him at lunch every day at a previous school in California for protection.
Allergens are a concern at the district level as well. Other district schools offer a peanut-free table in cafeterias. Manager of Menu Services Amy Faricy explains “It’s just a table for those kids who can’t sit next to the kids that have peanut butter.” The district also has a tool on its online menu to help parents filter out foods that may contain different types of allergens.
Perhaps the best tool in the battle is education. “There is not a nut-restricted Middle School so it’s important that kids learn how to advocate and speak up when they know they have this health issue,” says Principal Gigi Whalen.
Recognizing the foods that they can and cannot have is setting them up for success in the future. For now at Coyote Creek, kids with nut allergies can just choose to have fun at lunch with their friends.