Natalie Giorgi, 13, of Carmichael had been at Camp Sacramento with her family.

Elk Grove school district to ban peanut products from elementary schools

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 - 11:31 pm

The Elk Grove Unified School District plans to announce today that its elementary schools will no longer serve foods that contain peanut products, district spokeswoman Torrey Johnson said.

A few of the district's elementary schools already abide by this policy, according to Johnson. Those individual schools stopped serving peanut products years ago when parents expressed concerns to principals about their children's allergies.

Joseph Sims Elementary School hasn't served peanut products to students in at least 10 years. John Ehrhardt Elementary School hasn't since the beginning of this past academic year.

Media reports that a Sacramento-area teen died over the weekend from a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter prompted members of the district's Food and Nutrition Department to hold a special meeting late Tuesday, Johnson said.

At the meeting, department members opted to create and approve a districtwide policy that would halt the distribution of peanut products in their elementary schools.

When the new policy goes into effect Friday, pre-packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – which used to be served in school lunches – will be officially eradicated from the menus of all 39 district elementary schools.

Most local school districts already had policies restricting the use of peanut products in their cafeterias and kitchens before this week, according to district officials contacted by The Sacramento Bee.

The Sacramento City Unified School District has had a "peanut avoidance" policy for so long that Gabe Ross, a district spokesman, can't remember when its schools first stopped serving food with peanut products.

"It predates our current food services director," Ross said.

In the last four years, the only peanut products that have entered the lunchrooms of elementary schools in the Twin Rivers Unified School District have been packaged by students' parents, said Jill Van Dyke, the district's nutrition services director.

"We serve absolutely no products with peanut butter," Van Dyke said, "but we can't control what parents send."

The Eureka Union School District in Placer County has long had "peanut-free tables and zones" to protect students with severe allergies from peers who bring peanut products from home, said Linda Rooney, district superintendent.

Rooney added that this year, the district is switching to a new food vendor, which will serve meals that are free of tree nuts in addition to being free of peanuts.

And like the Eureka Union School District, Jim Sanders of Natomas Unified School District said its cafeterias have substituted sunflower seeds for peanut butter.

Johnson said the Elk Grove district's policy change is a response to the death of Natalie Giorgi, 13, who suffered from a severe allergic reaction Friday after she bit into a Rice Krispies treat at Camp Sacramento. Giorgi died early Saturday.

Still, in a policy similar to those at other school districts, lunch rooms at Elk Grove district middle and high schools will continue to serve foods with peanut products.

"(High school students) are more aware or what they can and cannot have," Johnson said.

The Elk Grove district will notify parents of the policy change by a post on its website this morning, and a letter sent to students' homes Monday.

When the new policy goes into effect Friday, pre-packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be officially eradicated from the menus of all 39 elementary schools.

Call The Bee's Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Kurt Chirbas



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