Parks Shouldn't Ban Snacks Just Because Some Kids Have Allergies

Rant 65

playgroundI feel for the parents of kids with food allergies. I really do. It must be terrifying living with the possibility that something as simple as a peanut butter sandwich could kill your child. And yet, a mom's suggestion that parents stop taking snacks to the playground, lest her kid get sick, is the latest example of the food allergy community taking things a step too far.

Take mom and author Curtis Sittenfeld (whose books I happen to adore) who opined in Slate this week that parents need to rein in their hungry kids at the park. Her fear, of course, is that her daughter's food allergies will be spiked by some careless kid wiping his PB&J all over the jungle gym.

As noted before, I feel for her. But that doesn't mean I agree with her.

Said Sittenfeld of her playground peanut problem:

My preference would be for kids to avoid eating food at playgrounds altogether, but I understand this possibility is probably about as likely as my laundry washing itself or me having a moms’ night out with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. If you do bring snacks, something like fresh fruit is statistically less likely to cause problems than donuts or cheese sticks -- though of course statistics aren’t much comfort to the dad of a kid who’s allergic to strawberries. 

OK, she realizes it's pretty much impossible, and yet she asks anyway? Does she even hear herself?

I get the sense that Sittenfeld is scared, and she's trying not to be one of those moms who comes off as self-involved. No doubt she's just a caring mom dealing with an issue that could kill her child.

But when you expect the world at large to forever be changing to adapt to your kids' issues, you can't help but sound a little self-involved. Hence the divide between parents of kids with specific allergies and the rest of the world.

Other kids may not have food allergies, but the move to make a world perfect for food-allergic kids fails to address the fact that no public space is going to be perfect for everyone.

What of a kid who is hypoglycemic, requiring small frequent meals throughout the day? Leaving the snacks at home isn't an option for his family. Or what of the immuno-compromised kid who could die if they catch a cough from the kid who just hacked all over the monkey bars? The kid whose allergy to synthetic fabrics will kick into overdrive if your tot hugs them with their rashguard on the merry-go-round?

The food allergy community has cornered the market on hysteria, so to speak. It's acceptable for them to put out demands like this on major websites because people are becoming more and more highly aware of the risk of just a little peanut to a kid with a serious allergy.

But let's put things in perspective. Just 8 percent of kids in America have food allergies. That's all of 'em, even the kids who might get one hive from eating a strawberry (not just those who will die at the scent of a peanut).

What about the other 92 percent of kids? What of their issues?

Can society truly be expected to change for them all? Out here? In public (note, I'm not talking about peanut-free schools ... that's a microcosm of kiddom that's much easier to control)?

Is it even possible? As Sittenfeld herself points out, fruit is fine and dandy for her kid, but could send another person's child into anaphylactic shock.

There is no perfect.

And yet, all kids deserve a chance to be normal, to go play at the playground with their peers.

So the real question is whose job it is to preserve that normalcy. Is it the world at large or ours as parents?

In a public setting, I have to insist that it's the latter.

We can't call for bans on everything.

Instead, we have to shoulder the burden of watching out for our own kids and their needs. Maybe that means spotting a mom with a PB&J and politely asking for her to put it away, but it doesn't mean banning all snacks at the playground anymore than it means banning all kids with the slightest of coughs or all kids with synthetic fabrics or ... who knows the end of that list? 

A hypoglycemic's mom totes snacks to the park. A food-allergic kid's mom needs to walk the perimeter and check for possible allergens, needs to watch what her kid might be putting in her mouth. The mom of the kid with cancer makes sure her son bathes in hand sanitizer. And so it goes.

We can all work together to help one another out in this global village, but one kid's serious issue doesn't trump another child's. Not in the real world.

Do you think it would be fair to ban snacks at playgrounds? Is this mom expecting the moon?


Image via nzgabriel/Flickr

kid health, kids nutrition


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Shandi80 Shandi80

I don't see how that would be enforced unless every park district was to hire a food security guard. I can just see it now: "Excuse me Ma'am, I'm going to have to confiscate those Cheetos."

work4... work4mickey

Some parents have gone as far to sugesy that the manufacture and sell of certain products (peanut butter cherios) be banned. In controlled childrens groups (daycare, schools) in which a child actually has an alergy, I think it's apprpriate to ban items if there is a child in that group with the alergy. But I shouldn't forgo picnics with my children, in the PUBLIC park, because some child, somewhere, is alergic to something, in my basket.

.LoVe... .LoVeMyBuG.

Wow just wow. NO, food should not be banned for 8% of the population!!! They sell these things called swing sets and slides at Walmart, Home Dept, Lowes, ToysRus... Go buy your child a play structure that will be food allergie free in the safety of your own yard, problem solved. I know not everyone can afford these play structures, in those cases go to craigslist, or just live without, people and kids have lived without worse. 

.LoVe... .LoVeMyBuG.

And to add to my comment above, I DO feel for the parents of kids with allergies I really do, I couldn't imagine but there is a fine line between banning PB from say ONE classroom (where an allergic child attends) and banning food from PUBLIC parks! 

Brandy BeautyforAshes Robinson

My son has an allergy and guess what.. If I don't want him to have it, I give him an alternative. Expecting every child to suffer for 8% is ludicrous.

Vegeta Vegeta

Would it be a good middle ground to have like hand sanitizer stations in parks? I'm not all the way clear with what in peanut butter causes the reaction, (im allergic to strawberries but I can touch them) would hand washing after eating solve this? They even make non alcoholic hand sanitizer now.

Christina Mancuso-Henry

Look at all the holier-than-thou and entitlement in this article and in it's comments. If you had a child who could go into anaphylactic shock and possibly DIE because ya'll can't keep your peanut-laden snacks - which for the most part aren't health for children anyways! - at home, you'd be singing a different tune. If you are so gung-ho about your kids eating snacks while playing, why not buy your own swing/slide set and keep them home?

Christina Mancuso-Henry

Since apparently every parent with children with allergies can afford to buy a swing/slide set... or has a yard...!

nonmember avatar MammaMel

Oh Christina...such insanity! I happen to know a mom at my son's school whose son is highly allergic to all know what she does? Asks that he be taken to another classroom when birthday cake is served and brought back afterwards. She is raising her child to not be self-centered and to remove himself instead of the other 19 kids being punished. They keep an epi-pen at school for him. And you know what? Because of her attitude on it all people don't bring in anything he is allergic to! Novel idea, huh? Show people that you don't expect them to cater to you, and guess what? THEY WILL! We bring in "rice crispie cakes" with nut free icing!

.LoVe... .LoVeMyBuG.

Christina, you are completely missing my point.

Obviously not everyone has a yard or can afford a swing set, should the world cater to them too and provide one since they are less fortunate? There are a lot of things I don't have that I would like but I don't expect it to be handed to me, those who can't afford something can WORK for it and they shall have it. It is a SWING SET, an EXTRA, not a necessity to live. 

And your food argument, I rarely even bring snacks to the park but I SHOULD have the option too as should everyone else. Banning food from parks for 8% of the population is ludicrous, as a commenter of a child suffering with food allergies pointed out as well. 

I am guessing you are one of those mom's who expects every child be given a trophy too? 

1-10 of 65 comments 12345 Last