Free of nuts or nutty ideas?

Vaughan, Ont., city councillors were understandably scratching their heads last year when a parent complained her Grade 1 daughter’s school failed to designate the school yard a “nut-free space.”

Vaughan, Ont., city councillors were understandably scratching their heads last year when a parent complained her Grade 1 daughter’s school failed to designate the school yard a “nut-free space.”

Donna Giustizia insisted four oak trees from a park straddling the school yard be removed because her daughter was allergic to acorns.

Giustizia told council that saplings dropping tree nuts on school property infringed on her daughter’s right to a nut-free space.

In another incident, Toronto-area parent Tony Perfetto looks around the kitchen first thing in the morning wondering what to make his seven-year-old daughter for school lunch.

Perfetto puts together jelly and margarine sandwiches so his daughter complies with a ban in her Grade 1 class, imposed by the school, on eggs, dairy products, peanuts, nut trees, sesame seeds, melon and avocado.

There’s one student in her class allergic to all those food groups. St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic School in September addressed the problem by prohibiting any students from bringing food to school that might trigger a reaction by that child.

And in Hamilton, a mother has filed a human rights complaint against her six-year-old daughter’s school for failing to accommodate the child’s life-threatening allergy to eggs and dairy products.

Lynne Glover pulled her daughter out of Grade 1 class at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Elementary School after it refused to ban from its snack list milk and egg products — including puddings, yogurts, cheese, chocolates on Valentine’s Day, and bake sale and pizza days.

Glover says she wants to “bring to light (in her human rights complaint) the fact that children have the right to a barrier-free education. Anything short of that is discrimination.”

These issues raise the contentious debate over what lengths authorities must go and how far must parents sacrifice the health of their children to accommodate a few students?

Eggs, milk, cheese and other diary products are indisputably healthy for the majority of children. And while school is in session for most the year, a good portion of the child’s eating habits will take place at school, making it all the more important that those children are eating healthy.

Parents of a child with life-threatening food allergies are understandably concerned, and shouldn’t be faulted for coming to the defence of their children.

“I can understand it can be frustrating if you don’t have a child with a food allergy,” said Laurie Harada, executive director of Anaphylaxis Canada. “It’s very difficult to understand that these kids aren’t just being fussy about not eating something. This can do them harm.”

But some experts maintain that imposing prohibition on foods may be getting out of hand, according to a recent report in the National Post.

In commenting on the acorn complaint, “This is ridiculous on too many levels to even engage (in a debate),” said Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School and a critic of nut policies in school.

Vaughan city Coun. Sandra Yeung Racco shares the same view.

“For as many people that may be allergic to acorns, I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are allergic to bees. What are we going to do about that? Are we going to exterminate all the bees?”

Other experts say education is the key in this debate. “My feelings are that we cannot childproof the whole world, we have to world-proof our children,” said Lenore Skenazy, New York author of Free Range Parenting.

“If it is dangerous for some kids to encounter an acorn, those kids have to be taught not to touch them, because there are trees all over, not just near the school,” said Skenazy.

“The best way to keep them safe is to train them to take care of themselves, not to cut down all the trees they may ever walk under anywhere.”

Interestingly, some studies show an increase in allergy prevalence today which Barrie, Ont., immunologist Dr. David Fischer attributes in part on increased consumption of processed food. Now there’s a scary thought.

Fischer is among some experts who questions the wisdom of making schools allergy-free, and points to education as the logical solution. One day, he told the National Post, today’s younger children are going to live in a world with peanuts and cheese. They must learn avoidance skills.

“There’s been a great debate about that and there’s been no resolution,” he said.

Meanwhile, the acorn complaint has since been withdrawn.

Rick Zemanek is a former Advocate editor.

Just Posted

Former Red Deer teacher going to trial on child porn charges

Charges were laid in January 2017 after a woman came forward

Red Deer agency reports more than 1,000 lives saved with naloxone

Turning Point distributes 5,855 naloxone kits

WATCH: Ponoka residents enjoy first skate on ice path

A community initiative helped create a skate path for families in Ponoka.

Canada, U.S. lead call for enforcement of sanctions against North Korea

VANCOUVER — Canada and the U.S. led calls Tuesday for the global… Continue reading

Donald Trump aces mental aptitude test designed by an immigrant to Canada

WASHINGTON — When the White House released the results of a test… Continue reading

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

This robotic maid takes us one step closer to ‘The Jetsons’

Imagine this: You’re rushing to get ready for work — juggling emails,… Continue reading

Milan line offers canine couture for pampered pooches

Milan has long been the world’s ready-to-wear fashion leader. Now, dogs are… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month