Food Allergy Risk Mitigation in Texas Independent School Districts
Mulgrave, Pierre Miguel
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An estimated 4%-6% of American school children attending federal, state, early care and education programs are affected by food allergies. Allergic reactions can be life threatening, with resultant far reaching impact on not only the children but also their families and the educational programs they attend. Data provided by the CDC demonstrate prevalence of food allergy among school aged children has increased by a staggering 50 percent since 1997. School policies regarding food allergies can reduce individual risk in children. Texas Independent School Districts (ISDs) may follow a combination of several criteria regarding preventing and mitigating negative health impacts due to food allergies in schools, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria; but by law the minimum guidelines as outlined by the 504 Plan must be followed. The currently approved School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act provides for protection of students with food related allergies. However, more education, research, advocacy and general awareness efforts are required to enhance prevention and treatment efforts, to ensure school environments and childcare programs are safe and inclusive, to train food catering staff and nutrition program managers in exercising the necessary precautions, and to increase the overall understanding of food allergy. There are 1228 ISDs across Texas. Utilizing the Texas Education Association’s rural/urban classification as a stratification unit, a random stratified sample representing a 10% cross section of the ISDs in Texas, was generated using Microsoft Excel. Food allergy-related polices, focused only on online data as posted by each ISD, were then assessed for this random sampling of school districts using pre-selected CDC criteria. Assessments were documented in the form of an evaluation matrix for a random sample of ISDs. Upon completion of this review, ISDs will be assessed and evaluated for compliance per the criteria as outlined in the CDC’s published best practices recommendations contained in their publication “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs, 2013.” Recommendations will subsequently be drafted for those ISDs found to be at highest risk. Summary conclusions are presented at the close of this thesis.