SNA Launches the Allergy Resource Center for School Nutrition Professional


Food-AllerfyAs the prevalence of food allergies in children unfortunately continues to rise in the U.S., it’s become even more critical for school nutrition professionals to be knowledgeable and alert on how to accommodate food-allergic students.

Today, managing food allergies in school nutrition is a pretty big challenge and more pervasive than ever. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 4%–to 6% of children across the nation. There is no cure for food allergies and reactions can be life threatening. A simple mistake in the kitchen could result in a student’s having a food allergy reaction that ranges from mild to life-threatening! In fact, SNA research shows that this is an area where its members need more information and training.

Strict avoidance of the food allergen, says the CDC, is the only way to prevent a reaction. However, since it is not always easy or possible for kids to avoid certain foods, staff in schools and early care and education programs (ECE) should develop plans for preventing an allergic reaction and responding to a food allergy emergency, including anaphylaxis. Early and quick recognition and treatment can prevent an allergic student’s serious health problem or death. What should you know?

With so much information (and misinformation) available on the web, SNA has created a reliable and trustworthy resource, where members can find all the data that you need to understand and deal with this critical and timely issue. Partnering with the National Peanut Board, SNA has launched the Food Allergy Resource Center for School Nutrition Professionals, which provides information, webinars, guidelinesresources, and more, on everything from how to create an emergency action plan, to asking an allergy expert for advice, to what are the top food allergies.

Designed to be used by either directors, managers or employees, the Food Allergy Resource Center is a toolkit that members can use to not only find the latest allergy information and recourses available but also provide answers to allergy-related questions that you are concerned about the most. The FAQ section features answers to 10 of the most asked questions SNA has received from its allergy webinars. If what you wanted to know is not there, you can visit the Ask the Allergy Expert section, and can pose your question directly to SNA’s allergy expert. All the submitted questions will be answered and posted in this forum on a quarterly basis on this website.

Visiting the Food Allergy Resource Center, you will discover that a food allergy occurs when the body has a specific and reproducible immune response to certain foods. Although the body’s immune system normally protects people from germs, in children (and adults) with food allergies, the immune system mistakenly responds to food as if it were harmful. In the Big 8 section, you will become familiar and acquainted with the eight foods or food groups – milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts - which account for 90% of serious allergic reactions in the U.S. Here you will learn about the symptoms and severity of allergic reactions to food that can not only be different between students, but can also be different for one student over time. Of special concern, anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction that is life-threatening.

Understanding the basics about food allergies, recognizing the signs and symptoms of a food allergy reaction, the steps to take to assist an allergic student, the impact on allergic students quality of life and how teamwork is a key to successful allergy management, are just some of the topics covered in the SNA webinars, which are all made available in the Food Allergy Resource Center.

The Food Allergy Resource Center also provides the CDC’s Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies In Schools and Early Care and Education Programs, which was the first national guideline developed to help schools and ECE programs address the growing needs of the ever expanding numbers of children with food allergies. This document will help you to ensure the daily management of food allergies in individual children, prepare for food allergy emergencies, provide professional development on food allergies for staff members, educate children and family members about food allergies and help you to create and maintain a healthy and safe educational environment.

Food allergens are a big concern in foodservice operations today. The Food Allergy Resource Center is here to help make sure that school nutrition professionals have an understanding of what food allergies are, what can happen when a student has an allergic reaction, and how to prevent them.

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