The following guidelines are designed to reduce the risk of exposure to potentially life-threatening food allergens for our growing number of students with severe allergies. It is our goal to provide a school setting that minimizes the risk of accidental exposure while maintaining a safe, positive educational environment for all students.

What is Food Allergy?

Food allergies affect 8% of children under age three, 6%-8% of school-age children and 2.5% of adults. 

Eight foods (peanut, tree nut, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish) account for 90% of total food allergies, although any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction. Those affected may be allergic to more than one food.

Peanut and tree nuts account for 92% of severe and fatal reactions, and along with fish and shellfish, are often considered to be lifelong allergies.

Food Allergy prevalence has increased 55% in the last five years

40%-50% of those diagnosed with food allergy are judged to have a high risk of anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction). Every food allergy reaction has the possibility of developing into a life-threatening and potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction. This can occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen.

Reactions can occur simply by touching or inhaling an allergen. In some cases, consumption of as little as one five-thousandth of a teaspoon of an allergenic food can cause death.

Impact on the School

Every school should expect at some point to have students with food allergies. Schools must be prepared to deal with food allergies and the potential for anaphylaxis.

Accidental ingestion of the offending allergen occurs most often at school. As many as one in five children with food allergies will have a reaction in school.

The student with an undiagnosed food allergy may experience their first allergy reaction while at school. 

When a physician assesses that a child's food allergy will result in anaphylaxis the child's condition meets the definition of disability and is covered under the Federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and may be covered under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) if the allergy management affects the students ability to make educational progress.

Adequate plans and staff, who are knowledgeable regarding preventive measures and well prepared to handle severe allergic reactions, can save the life of a child.

Family's Responsibility

Notify the school of child's allergies. Provide updates as necessary.

Help to establish a core team of, but not limited to, physician, principal, school nurse, teacher, guidance counselor and food service manager to develop and implement a plan that addresses the child's needs, including the school bus, classroom, cafeteria, assemblies, etc. A detailed Food Allergy Action Plan shall also be included.

Provide written medical documentation, instructions, and prescribed medications, using the Food Allergy Action Plan as a guide. Photo of child must also be included.

Provide child with a medic-alert bracelet identifying the life-threatening allergy. Bracelet should be worn at all times while at school.

Replace expired and/ or used medications as per Food Allergy Action Plan.

Educate the child in the self-management of their food allergy including: safe and unsafe foods, strategies for avoiding exposure to unsafe foods, symptoms of allergic reactions, how to communicate an allergy-related problem, how to read food labels (age appropriate). Child should not accept food from other students.

Review guidelines/ procedures with core team members as soon as possible following a reaction.

Student's Responsibility

Take a proactive role in the care and management of their food allergies (age appropriate).

Do not accept food items from or trade food items with other students.

Avoid food items with unknown ingredients or known allergens.

Immediately notify any teacher, administrator, assistant or school nurse of possible exposure to food allergen.

Wear a medic-alert bracelet at all times.

School's Responsibility

Keep informed of and follow all applicable federal laws including ADA, IDEA, Section 504 and FERPA, as well as all state laws and district policies/ guidelines that may apply.

Include food-allergic students in school activities. Students shall not be excluded from school activities solely based on their food allergies.

Inform and update all families registered in the district about known allergens in order to minimize the risk of life-threatening exposure. Extra-curricular groups using school facilities will also be notified, and shall be excluded from using any area designated as allergen-free.

Provide all families with a copy of Food Allergy Guidelines as well as a listing of resources regarding food allergies, such as Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). 

Identify a core team of, but not limited to, physician, principal, school nurse, teacher, guidance counselor, and food service manager to work with parents and student (age appropriate) to establish a Food Allergy Action Plan specific to that child. Changes will be made as necessary with team participation.

Consult with local emergency management personnel to establish and/ or update emergency protocols and drill procedures as needed.

Educate staff who interact with students with food allergies, on a regular basis so they understand food allergy, can recognize symptoms, can take emergency action, and will work with other school staff to eliminate the use of food allergens in lunch program, educational tools, arts and crafts projects, or incentives.

Identify school personnel who are properly trained to administer medications in accordance with State Nursing and Good Samaritan Laws governing the administration of emergency medications. 

Coordinate with school nurse to assure that medications are stored appropriately (easily accessible, secure location such as the main office) and that an emergency kit is readily available and contains a physician's standing order for epinephrine.

Practice the Food Allergy Action Plan as a drill to assure the efficiency/ effectiveness of the plan. Emergency protocols shall be updated as needed with team participation.

Review Food Allergy Action Plan with core team members and physician as soon as possible following a reaction.

Work with bus companies to determine appropriate management of transportation needs.

Discuss planned field trips as a team to decide appropriate strategies for managing child's food allergy. Encourage parents of child to participate as a chaperone.

Take threats or harassment against an allergic child seriously.

Everyone's Responsibility

Read all information made available by the school regarding food allergies. Any questions regarding the Food Allergy Guidelines should be directed to the principal or school nurse. 

Understand the seriousness of food allergies and consider how food choices may impact the lives of severely allergic students.

Promote understanding, acceptance and compassion.

*Some information used in the preceding guidelines was developed by:

American Food Service Association

National Association of Elementary School Principals

National Association of School Nurses

National School Boards Association

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)

Massachusetts Department of Education

North Andover School District, North Andover, MA

*In some cases, information has been modified to meet the needs and concerns of School Administrative Unit 28.

*Food Allergy Resources


The Peanut Allergy Answer Book, by Michael C. Young, M.D. Fair Winds Press 2001.

Caring for Your Child with Severe Food Allergies, Lisa Cipriano Collins. John Wiley & Sons, 2000.

Special Diet Solutions and Special Diet Celebrations, Carol Fenster, PhD. Savory Palate, Inc 1999.

No Nuts for Me, Aaron Zevy. Tumbleweed Press, 1995.

Alexander, the Elephant Who Couldn't Eat Peanuts, and other titles, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

Other Resources:

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America/ New England Chapter (AAFA/ New England)

220 Boylston Street

Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Phone: (617) 965-7771 Toll-Free (877)2-ASTHMA Fax: (617)965-8886



Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)

10400 Eaton Place, Suite 107

Fairfax, VA 22030-2208

Phone: (800)929-4040 Fax: (703)691-2713


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)

611 Wells Street

Milwaukee, WI 53202

Phone: (414)272-6071 Toll-Free: (800)822-2762 Fax: (414)272-6070


American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology

85 West Algonquin Road

Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Phone: (847)427-1200


American Academy of Pediatrics

141 Northwest Point

Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

Phone: (847)434-4000 Fax: (847)434-8000


Dey Laboratories (manufacturer of Epi-Pen auto-injectors)

Phone: (800)755-5560 Fax: (800)869-9005



2323 Colorado Avenue

Turlock, CA 95382

Phone: (800)432-5378


Massachusetts Department of Education, Nutrition Programs and Services

Kathleen Millett, Administrator

350 Main Street

Malden, MA 02148

Phone: (781)338-6498



US Department of Education - Office for Civil Rights

Ruth Ricker, Technical Assistance Specialist

Phone: (617)223-9680



Seacoast Food Allergy Group

Portsmouth, NH

Phone: (603)964-8060

*Some listings courtesy of Massachusetts Department of Education

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