Food Intolerances and Food Allergies are very common and are becoming more and more of an important issue, certainly as we are becoming more and more aware of the topic of health and food. There is quite a significant difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy. A Food Allergy is quite serious and means that your immune system is fighting against a food that you ate and sends out antibodies to fight it (Britannica). This can become quite dangerous, and can end with a person having to go to the hospital. The most common symptoms are a swelling throat or mouth, stomach pain, rashes, bloating, and vomiting, while “the most common food allergies are to shellfish, nuts, fish, and eggs.” (Harvard Health Publishing). The main difference between the two is that, “Food intolerances involve the digestive system, whilst Food allergies involve the immune system.” (Ascia). For some people, traces of a certain food can already cause a problem, while others can eat certain amounts of it, with little problems. Common Intolerances are lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and fructose intolerance. They can cause symptoms such as stomach pain, swelling, bloating and others.
In many restaurants, there are special labels on the menus, which include information about allergens and ingredients that might be harmful to some people. Some of them actually have alternative dishes and options, offering a wider choice for people with food intolerances or allergies. However, it is still a struggle to find certain dishes or foods that you can eat, especially with serious food allergies, where traces of a food can already cause problems.
In school cafeterias, there are often not so many choices available, since the food gets prepared in advance during the morning and then gets handed out to the students at lunch. At ISB, there are now newly added labels warning about certain ingredients that might cause trouble for some people. These are letting people know about the ingredients and possible traces of foods in the meals, but at the same time don’t give other options. Especially for people with more than one intolerance or allergy, it is extremely hard to find a meal in the cafeteria options. There are limited to no options available for them. Linking this to the topic of inclusivity, it leads to the conclusion that it is often a topic that may be discussed, but still not really thought of or improved. Of course, the demand for allergen-friendly dishes and snacks might be lower, since they probably make up a minority of the student body, but it is still an issue that should be addressed.
There are multiple opportunities and ways that schools can become more inclusive for students and teachers with food intolerances or allergies, one of which would be making one more allergen friendly dish in addition to the other lunch options. Of course, the severity of the allergy or intolerance always varies for different people, but there are ways to atleast make one dish a day more allergen friendly for a number of different allergies and intolerances. An example would be to roast vegetables with olive oil or vegetable oil instead of butter, which is a simple and easy way to make it available for people with a dairy intolerance. Then, you could also use gluten free noodles, which makes it accessible for people with gluten, egg, and nut intolerances, depending on the type of pasta used. A large variety and quantity of gluten-free pasta alternatives are available, such as lentil pasta, buckwheat pasta, and quinoa pasta, and many others.
The snacks available in vending machines is another issue, which includes that there is again, a limited number of options available. There are a number of brands that make allergen friendly snacks, such as cereal bars, which would be a choice for one or two snacks. Another issue with vending machines is that you need to decide the food or snack you are buying from the name alone and the image of the package. However, there is no way for you to look at the label and the backside of the packaging, which includes the key information for people who can’t eat certain foods. Often, the only choice is to buy something you already know or buy with fingers crossed, hoping that the snack you chose doesn’t include anything that is bad for you, and you therefore wasted money buying it, but not being able to eat it.
This issue could be solved by having a list with the snacks sold in the machine nearby, which includes the ingredients and traces of foods that might be in there. A simple solution for a problem that can cause a lot of headaches when it is not addressed and taken care of.
To become more inclusive as a community and as a school to people with food intolerances and food allergies, we need to start making people more aware of the issue. There are lots of people in our community who can’t eat certain foods and they can have serious consequences for them, and cause a lot of discomfort, if not pain. There should be more understanding for the nutritional needs of members of our community and they should be addressed more openly. There are a lot of misunderstandings and confusions about the topic, and it is our job as a community to support those with a food intolerance or allergy.
Fitch, Erin. “Food Allergy.” Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/science/food-allergy. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.
Li, James T C. “Food Allergy Vs. Food Intolerance: What’s the Difference?” Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538#:~:text=A%20true%20food%20allergy%20causes,often%20limited%20to%20digestive%20problems. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.
“Don’t Tolerate Food Intolerance.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, Jan. 2017, http://www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/dont-tolerate-food-intolerance. Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.