FORT MYERS, Fla. — The topic of peanut butter inside cafeterias has been a discussion for years across the country. Peanut butter has not been served inside the kitchens within Lee County schools since 2004. School officials say that is changing on Tuesday, February 22, 2022.
It's important to note that peanut butter has not been banned from inside cafeterias in traditional schools within Lee County meaning students can and have been bringing in their own peanut butter however there have been peanut-free kitchens.
Students will start to see Uncrustables in the cafeteria lines with a yellow sticker placed across it saying 'WARNING! PEANUTS This product contains nuts'
Amy Carroll, the Coordinator of Food and Nutrition Services explains, "Less than 2 percent of our students in Lee County are allergic to peanuts."
The school district says there are 1,325 peanut-allergic students and that's out of about 87,000 students in the traditional schools within the School District of Lee County.
"Now we're faced with unprecedented times with supply shortages, labor shortages just a variety of factors that have led us to reexamine bringing peanut butter back on the menu because it's an affordable, available commodity that kids enjoy eating," says Carroll.
The changes begin one week and a panel was held to answer any prior questions or concerns that were sent in over the last few weeks. Parents of children with food allergies are encouraged to fill out a student food allergy information form that has been added to the FOCUS parent portal.
A mom with students in the district says her kids are not allergic to peanut butter.
"As a parent, I feel it's a really bad move on the district's end because while they may be able to monitor what goes on through the lines and keep the children that are allergic from not getting it they can't control what goes on while they sit with their peers," Jessica Bixenman,
The district is aware of different reactions to the new menu starting next week but explains adding these individually wrapped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - they won't be made in the back so there's not any cross-contamination. Adding that safety protocols are in place along with... Retraining staff, placing bright stickers warning product contains peanut, special pans for the service line, signage in the cafeteria service lines. Students will checkout with their ID number to identify those with allergies on file. And tables are cleaned between lunch periods.
But it's not just about peanut butter as the schools are focused on all allergies... "When we met with all the different departments and discussed bringing peanuts back it was more we brought up instead of banning one particular allergen which isn't an effective way to do things it provides a false sense of security we wanted to focus on there are 9 major allergens now and we need to have a comprehensive plan within in the district so all kids are safe regardless of what they may be allergic to," says Carroll.
School officials say if your child has any kind of allergy to contact your school nurse.