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February 9, 2008

Valentine's Day lunch exchange

I have more thoughts for keeping our food allergic children safe during Valentine's Day celebrations. One way our teachers have made the day special is by having a secret lunch exchange. Each child fills out a "Favorites for lunch" menu, including a main dish, fruit/veggie, snack (chips, crackers), one small dessert and a drink. And yes, there is a space that asks for food allergies. The kids then secretly draw names. Each child is asked to bring in a lunch prepared with the suggestions from the favorites sheet. The lunches come in homemade, decorated boxes or fancy bags to make it more fun. The kids reveal who their secret lunch person was during lunchtime the day of the party.

The first time I read about this "assignment," I freaked out a bit. We ended up having the teacher draw my child's name so I could provide the lunch. My now sixth grader informs me that she thought it wasn't fair that the teachers always drew her name. So we came up with a better idea. My daughters now put their "Favorites for Lunch" in the drawing with all of the other kids. I write in the space provided for allergies that my daughter has multiple food allergies and I would like the parent to call me (I list my phone number). I tell the parent that I will provide my daughter's lunch in a plain brown paper sack. The teacher can put the brown bag inside the box or bag the child has decorated. Since most of the parents remember the letter about my daughter's allergies from the beginning of the year, they are more than happy to help in this way. And over the years, the other kids end up putting a small, non edible treat in the bag too, as an extra surprise.

I write down my daughter's favorites that she handed in (so I remember what she wrote), then I secretly pack her lunch the morning of the exchange. I staple the brown bag closed and decorate it with a few stickers. I staple it so she knows that what's inside came from our house. I find this is the best way to keep it both a surprise and safe! I'd be paranoid that a child would drop a few pieces of candy in the bag because they felt bad for my daughter. And since my daughter didn't help pack the lunch, she might think that the candy came from home. So if she sees the bag stapled shut in the morning, and it looks the same way at lunch, then she can eat the food without worries.

I set it up with the teacher that she puts my daughter's lunch bag inside the decorated box form the child who drew her name. That way she still gets to participate in the fun of guessing who had her name and the other child still has the chance to decorate a bag.

It works out well and has taken away the stress and worry.

Posted by Ann Marie at February 9, 2008 10:34 AM


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