Food Allergies: What Missions Leaders Need to Know

by Jessica Brown

Trying foods from around the world is a memorable missions activity for children. But for kids with food allergies, sampling what missionaries eat can be deadly. A 2008 CDC release suggests that 4% of children nationwide have at least one food allergy.

Many parents of children with food allergies choose not to send their child to church or special events out of concern for their child’s safety. Use these tips make your children’s missions programs safer for all girls and boys:

Know your kids.
In our small church, we have three children with varying degrees of food allergy and intolerance. As the Children in Action director, I am aware of these things:
• what these three children can and cannot have
• how a reaction for each child presents itself
• who carries each child’s medication in the event of an emergency
• what medical professionals are in the church building during our meeting time

Post a list of all food you will serve.
Once in awhile, we are fortunate enough to have a guest with us in Children in Action. I may not be aware of that child’s allergies. So every week, I post at the door to our classroom a list of foods boys and girls will try.

When you post a food list, include on it the ingredients in each dish. Be sure to bring the food’s packaging (or a copy of it) for parents or older children to review. Leaders or parents may want to use a barcode scanner app on a smartphone to check a product for allergy information.

As you prepare food, avoid cross-contamination of ingredients as much as possible.

Honor a child’s wishes.
While we want our kids to sample dishes from around the world, never force a food allergic child to try something. Some kids know what may trigger a reaction, even if we do not.

By instituting these precautions, we can help make church a safe place for children with food allergies.

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