Situation Food Allergy: The Big Test (& The Even Bigger Buffet)


Situation Food Allergy: The Big Test (& The even Bigger buffet)

Your son, who is allergic to milk and peanuts, can hardly hold back the tears when he gets off the bus. It was a big standardized testing day at the school, which spent a substantial amount of time the past few weeks preparing the students and stressing the importance of doing well.

You finally get him to calm down.

"Mr. Gary is the teacher next door, and everyone loves him because he is cool,” Bobby begins to explain. “This morning when we were all walking down the hall, Mr. Gary was standing in his room yelling to his students, ‘Welcome to Gary’s Grill! The test starts in an hour. Before we begin, grab a plate and enjoy!’ Everyone could hear him. He actually set up a mini buffet in the room, Mom. A mini buffet with donuts and bacon and fruit and everything.”

“What?” you say incredulously. “Did Mrs. Janet offer food too?”

“No, Mom. Of course not,” he says. “And everyone in my class was upset because Mrs. Janet didn’t do anything like that. She told us that Mr. Gary knows better because there is a strict no-food policy in all classes. You could even smell the bacon from next door!”

Indeed, the school has a no-food policy in the classes, but for the high-stakes tests they probably overlooked it, especially since teachers were doing everything possible to incentivize the students. There are no known allergies in Mr. Gary’s class so he wasn’t putting anyone directly at risk. Since some of the kids in his class probably skipped breakfast, he most likely served food with the best of intentions. But the precedent is dangerous. And you can see why your son would be upset, especially since some of his classmates were blaming the lack of food in their class on his allergy.

"Jenny even said out loud, ‘Thanks Bobby.’”

Seeing how upset your son is, you can tell this is a big issue. You are confident the anxiety this caused him probably impacted how he performed today, too. To add to the anxiety, now you don’t know if other teachers will do something like this during testing the next few days. Or what if Mr. Gary gets in trouble? Will students blame Bobby?

“Mom, do NOT call the school. Do NOT do anything. I just need to vent. I hate my allergy. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.”

You can feel your blood pressure begin to rise.

What do you do?


JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.