One Mom Manifests a Vision: An Allergy-Free Preschool
At AllergyKids, we are constantly inspired by the work of the food allergic community and the creative solutions that parents develop to help address this growing epidemic that not only benefit their own children but also countless others. As the debate in schools continues over how best to address this growing epidemic and the all-too-real, life-threatening condition that it can be to too many children, we recently learned how one mom took this issue into her own hands, and inspired by the love she had for her own children and others with food allergies, built a school that an entire community now enjoys.
Her story is inspiring and shared by Michael Cowl from St. Stephen ECD and Preschool at http://allergyfreepreschool.org/
Founded in 2002, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool is the only school in the St. Louis area designed specifically for children with asthma and allergy related health issues. Free from trigger foods known to cause allergic reactions, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool is a product of, director, Laura Schulte’s desire to help her community and family.
Schulte’s oldest son Ben had a food allergy to dairy and casein products. In addition, less than two years later after their second son Joe spent extensive time in and out of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit it became known, Schulte’s son, Joe, suffered from multiple food allergies, asthma and eczema. The Schulte family learned their lifestyle would have to change drastically in order to keep Joe healthy. Countless foods had to be eliminated from the house, ingredient labels became matters of life-or-death and common family outings – such as restaurant visits – would no longer be an option. Upon beginning the elimination diet recommended by doctors, Joe’s health improvements were almost immediate. By the time Joe reached age three some normalcy had returned to the household. Unfortunately, Joe’s conditions and sensitivity to his environment put him at risk for deathly allergic reactions to even minor traces of offending allergens. While searching for an early childhood center with knowledge of these common chronic conditions, in addition to a carefully controlled environment, came the discovery that there was much work to be done in order to make St. Louis a better place for children like Joe. Ultimately, from the struggle in all of this, both a child and now a wonderful idea had been brought into existence and, today, both continue to thrive and grow.
Opening in 2002, with the help of volunteers from neighborhood churches and forming a nonprofit foundation in 2006, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool has served well over 600 students and continues to maintain a zero percent reaction rate among its students. While most schools anticipate a ten to 25 percent rate of anaphylaxis or allergy reaction among students during a school year, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool attributes its success to a strict food policy. In order to maintain an allergy free environment, lunch and all snacks are provided, and are allergy free, as outside food is not allowed into the school. There are no foods with nuts, fish, dairy, soy, egg and, if necessary, wheat allowed inside the building.
Furthermore, to help educate families, program information is available at the building about the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network as well as the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Also, parent and family information and support is available with Gateway FEAST, a local parent run group of members exchanging ideas and information.
Additionally, if any child has an allergy or asthma medication, parents are allowed to leave that medication in a secure container at school. Staff also goes over pediatric instructions directly with parents. By eliminating these risk factors from the school premises, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool is able to offer a safe and secure place for these children.
To learn more about this allergy-free preschool, please visit http://allergyfreepreschool.org/