Ontario mother petitions school board to lift ban on peanuts
An Ontario mother is petitioning her child’s school to reverse its ban on peanuts, arguing that it limits what she can pack her daughter for lunch.
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Alyssa Holstock says her kindergarten-aged daughter Zoe attended a school in the Waterloo Region District School Board with an outright ban on peanuts. Because her daughter is picky with food, Holstock said the peanut ban made it difficult for her to pack meals she would like.
“I did try feeding her other things, but it got to a point where she just wasn’t eating,” Holstock told CTV Kitchener on Wednesday.
The Cambridge, Ont. mother said her daughter was coming home from school exhausted because she wasn’t eating her lunch.
“I’ve offered to label her lunches when she has something with an allergen and that way they know looking at her lunch pail, today is a day where she needs to sit by herself,” Holstock explained. “I think that’s probably one of the most reasonable solutions.”
After the school rejected her suggestion, Holstock removed her daughter from the school this fall. Since then, Zoe has been staying home while her mother lobbies the school board to overturn the ban.
Holstock has also created an online petition calling on the Waterloo Region District School Board to lift its ban on peanuts.
“I am a single mom with three kids under six, being told that my children do not have a right to attend public school because I pack nuts in their lunch,” she wrote in a description for the petition. “The children allergic to nuts are not deserving of more protection than any other allergic student.”
Holstock then asked other parents with children attending schools in the area to join her in questioning the logic behind the ban. She said the school should be feeding her children if they’re going to tell her what she’s allowed to pack.
“Otherwise, it's simple enough to make sure students know not to share food, and to wash up after!” she wrote. “Should we kill all the bees because people are allergic to them?”
As of Thursday morning, the petition has garnered 171 supporters of its 50,000 goal. However, some of the comments from signatories actually appear to be critical of Holstock’s objective.
“All you people are selfish that know nothing about the severity of nut allergies. Just bullies, it’s plain and simple as that,” one man wrote. “I will even sign it just so I can post this message.”
“Avoiding nuts is a daily thing we deal with. So my daughter doesn't die. You start a petition to make it even harder on us. Shame on you and all of you who signed this,” another commenter wrote.
There is precedent for Holstock’s request. Last year, a school board in Montreal determined it couldn’t prohibit certain foods from its schools.
Despite this, advocates for banning peanuts in school said attitudes like Holstock’s are concerning.
“It’s not a choice to be allergic,” said Jennifer Gerdts, the executive director of Food Allergy Canada. “Avoidance is the only mechanism for preventing reactions and staying safe.”
According to Food Allergy Canada, approximately two in 100 children have a peanut allergy in Canada, with the rate highest among young children.
Stephanie Bonnick’s son is one of those children. He has a number of anaphylactic allergies and Bonnick said the peanut ban in schools help to give her peace of mind.
“It’s a big thing to be able to send him to school and not worry,” she said. “Every child has the right to go to school and be safe and be protected and their parents knowing there is no risk of them potentially going into anaphylaxis.”
Holstock said she plans to keep her daughter home from school while she calls on the school board to lift the ban.
“We just don't want to end up in a position where in order to accommodate everyone we have no choices left on what to feed our kids,” she said.
The Waterloo Region District School Board says they do not plan to review their policy on peanuts in light of Holstock’s petition. The board added that parents have the right to send their children to school with the knowledge they will be safe.
With a report from CTV Kitchener’s Krista Simpson