After coming home from church today and I feeling inspired, actually I was more fuming mad than anything, I wrote this letter to our bishopric (clergy) and Stake President. I am hoping that some good will come of it. Never did I realize how much of an advocate for my children I would need to become, until the these past few weeks. Am I up for the challenge? Yes! Am I excited about it? NO! But I am determined to teach others how the human race can still have fun even while accommodating those with food allergies. Everything is not about food right?
Church has become a very dangerous place for our children with food allergies. We have brought this issue up to the stake president once before and have spoken with primary leaders, teachers, etc... but proper precautions are still not being taken. It is our fear that we will not be able to attend our meetings because of the unsafe environment they are providing for our children. This may seem extreme to those who do not have children with food allergies, but this is due to a lack of understanding and education. The number of children with food allergies is growing at a startling rate. In our ward alone at least one of the Knapp children have food allergies besides our own children. There are children in the Fulton ward with special diets. I know several other mothers of children with food allergies throughout the US who are members of the church. Many of whom have life threatening allergies, that cause anaphalactic shock and death. There is no reason for the 3 hour block to be unsafe for those with food allergies. Church is not about food.
The reason for this e-mail is because today yet again our children are being put in unsafe situations. Fruit snacks were handed out to all of the primary children after church by the primary presidency. Nursery children had some of these snacks. Owen is allergic to many kinds of fruit snacks. Adam is allergic to ALL fruit snacks. Just as we were coming in to pick up the boys Adam was heading straight towards another child's bag of fruit snacks. As we were dressing the boys to leave, a parent approached Renae wanting to bring in treats for nursery next week because it's Valentine's Day. She tried to emphasize that other than the foods specifically listed in large print in the nursery room, there was really nothing else that could be brought in that would be guaranteed safe for both of our boys. Even if alternatives are brought for the boys, they are in nursery. Food is dropped and spilled everywhere and can be eaten off the floor by anyone.
The boys will grow older and become aware of their food allergies, but this will not eliminate several dreaded situations to come. Some examples include:
Gifts to mothers and fathers on Mother's Day and Father's Day that contain chocolates and sweets. Chocolates, cookies, and wrappers are everywhere! Do we not attend church that day because of the food and danger it causes our boys?
Primary teachers bringing in treats for class or leaders using food as rewards during sharing time etc... You may think this isn't happening, but it is! During rehearsals for the primary presentation the presidency brought in huge spreads of crackers, peanut butter, fruits, and vegetables. Almost everything Adam is allergic to. Owen was also allergic to many of the items. Had they been in primary it would have been a nightmare. Is there really a reason for food like this to be given out during the three hour block?
Special holidays like Easter and Christmas where food seems to be a part of a holiday lesson...
Birthdays in primary where children receive bags of candy... There are so many other alternatives to candy as gifts.
We're not asking all food to be eliminated in church. We're especially not asking for parents to stop bringing snacks for their kids during sacrament meeting. Sacrament meeting is where everyone is sitting with their parents or guardians. It is a very controlled environment. This provides safety. For those with extreme life threatening allergies, a safe roped off pew or set of chairs where children can not run and play at their leisure, is safe for those with food allergies to enjoy sacrament meeting without worrying about their child going into anaphalactic shock.
Our main concern is that teachers, leaders and other members of the ward are giving food to children and youth when parents aren't around, despite pleas for our children's safety. What if an investigator comes to church one Sunday with her child. Her child has a severe allergy. A treat is handed out in primary or right after sacrament meeting forcing them to leave? Again this may seem very extreme, but food allergies are VERY REAL and VERY SCARY.
We are fine with the fact that we can't participate in any events outside of the three hour Sunday block because of our children's food allergies. We are fine with bringing snacks to nursery for all of the children to enjoy. But when we can't even guarantee our children are safe during that three hour block it's too much to handle. We have three options as parents to children with food allergies:
1. Stop coming to our meetings because of the unsafe environment for our children.
2. Ask to be released from our callings so we can attend all meetings with our children to guarantee their safety.
3. Educate leaders and teachers and remove all food from the three hour block except sacrament and snacks that parents bring their own children to eat during sacrament meeting and after church.
We would prefer the third option. We are more than willing to educated leaders and teachers, but NEED an endorsement and statement from the Stake President and Bishopric so that they will listen. Obviously the educating that we have been doing isn't enough. We are not aware of a church wide statement about food allergies but we hope and will advocate for one. Schools have been forced to accommodate the growing number of children with food allergies. Airlines have accommodated food allergies. Even manufacturers of foods now by law are required to print what allergens are in foods AND if the food has been manufactured on equipment or in the same facility as certain allergens. Isn't it time that we as a church step it up too. It's so important to ensure that every individual who has the desire and can attend their meetings be able to. We accommodate the physically handicapped with ramps and changing the locations of classes. Please accommodate our children and so many others with food allergies.
Again, we are more than willing to help educate people and to assist in any other parts of this process to ensure the safety of those with food allergies. Let us know what we can do and we will do it! Please help us be able to attend our meetings!
Jason and Renae Eddy