The complicated case of little Elodie Glover has created a firestorm of controversy across the city and throughout the country.
The six-year-old Hamilton girl is severely allergic to dairy and eggs. Her mother, Lynne Glover, believes that her school is not doing enough to protect the grade one student. So this feisty mum of five pulled her daughter out of school recently and launched a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Honestly, I am torn. On the one hand, I applaud the mother for taking a stand and being a firm advocate for her young daughter. That's what parents are supposed to do. We protect, defend and champion our children, especially when their life is on the line.
And Glover makes a valid argument when she points out that children with peanut allergies are already accommodated within the school system.
But while this mama bear may have the best of intentions, her demands are simply too far reaching.
It is entirely impractical to expect a school to completely ban all eggs and dairy products. The list of offensive foods is so long and varied it leaves the average parent dazed and confused as to what might constitute a truly safe and nutritious lunch.
Foods like milk, yogurt and cheese are clearly off the table. But so are things like creamed soups and vegetables, creamy salad dressings, processed meats, seasoned and ranch-style potato and tortilla chips and seasoned french fries. Anything made with butter or margarine is off limits - which rules out many pastas and baked goods like muffins and bread. Canned tuna is strangely disallowed and to add insult to injury, even chocolate is verboten.
An egg allergy spells the end of most pancakes, waffles, donuts and muffins. Even soda crackers, breadcrumbs and pretzels are barred.
Yummy egg noodles and pasta? Forget it.
Fish sticks and chicken fingers? Nope.
Meatballs and meat loaf? Only if the parent makes it from scratch using egg-free breading.
Unfortunately, I have only skimmed the surface of outlawed food items. The list is absolutely exhausting and as a parent, I would be hard pressed to come up with just one approved meal that my children would actually eat, let alone five each and every week.
While avoiding peanut butter and nut products is slightly irritating, it in no way compares to the litany of items one must shirk if a school implements a ban on dairy and egg.
Believe me, I have plenty of compassion for this mom and others like her. Trying to feed her child and keep her kid safe would be a full-time job in and of itself.
But it all boils down to what is reasonable. If a child is allergic to anchovies or mustard, it is likely not a huge inconvenience for parents to refrain from sending such items to school. But dairy and eggs? It is just impossible to expect every parent and grandparent who prepares school lunches and snacks to be savvy enough to never make a mistake. Shopping for safe alternatives may also prove to be too costly for many Hamilton parents.
Keep in mind that there are also certain people who are allergic to sunlight. Yes, sunlight. Should affected schools be forced to board up windows and doors in an effort to accommodate at all cost?
And don't even get me started on the (admittedly very rare) affliction that leaves some human beings allergic to water.
What we need is a reasonable resolution.
Ideally, Elodie should be given a small room where she can eat her lunch in relative safety. And if she were my child, I would offer to prepare an extra lunch each day for a friend so my daughter would have some company and not feel so ostracized.
The other option would be to keep her home. After nine bouts of anaphylactic shock, I would probably elect to homeschool my child until she was old enough to look out for herself, or hopefully outgrow the allergy altogether. Going home for lunch is another option.
Keep in mind that merely banning these foods from school lunches does nothing to protect Elodie from the overwhelming majority of classmates who will eat egg and dairy for breakfast every single day. So EpiPens should be close at hand and all teachers should be properly trained regarding their use.
Even if a school were to implement an egg and dairy ban, I would not have enough faith in parents or staff to police such a policy. It is simply too great a burden.
Lydia Lovric is a former writer and broadcaster, turned stay-at-home mom.
This article originally appeared in The Hamilton Spectator.
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