Kupchick, Hwang and McCarthy Vahey push for State food allergy guidelines [Fairfield Sun]

March 18, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Fairfield Sun

With the rising prevalence of food allergies in our children, State Reps. Brenda Kupchick, Cristin McCarthy Vahey and State Senator Tony Hwang are advocating for legislation to establish a new state task force on this life-threatening issue.

The legislation, HB 6975 An Act Establishing a Task Force to Study Life-Threatening Food Allergies in School, would create a task force with the mission of formulating a uniform policy on food allergies for all school districts.

The CT Department of Education has guidelines for districts in the development of district-wide management plans for students with life-threatening allergies and glycogen storage disease; however, each school district is creating their own policies — some that are in direct conflict with Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“My goal with this legislation is to bridge the emotional divide between parents of children with life threatening food allergies and school administrators, staff and parents of students without allergies and find a one consistent policy that address everyone’s concerns,” said Rep. Kupchick, who has worked on this issue since her years serving on the Fairfield Board of Education.

Rep. Kupchick testified with Fairfield resident Jessica Curran, who has 9 year old twin boys that have anaphylactic allergies to peanuts and tree nuts and attend Fairfield public schools.

Curran told the Education committee, “Despite state and federal guidelines, the ADAAA and Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973, there still remain multiple and significant barriers to safety and inclusion for students with life threatening food allergies in CT.”

Senator Hwang joined Fairfield resident Patricia Donovan in testifying before the Education Committee.

Senator Hwang said, “In general, I am not a proponent of top-down education policies, but when it comes to the safety of our children and the potentially life-threatening nature of food allergies, I believe this is an area where a uniform policy makes sense. The overarching goal here is to come up with a plan that protects students in a way that is inclusive and helps foster a supportive and safe school environment for all our children. I’m thankful that Patricia and Jessica are making the time to take up this cause and advocate for their children.”

Donovan has two children with multiple life-threatening food allergies and asthma. Donovan said, “We need to continue to shift the paradigm away from 911 policies and toward those that promote safety, inclusion, and community support so our students are ready to learn.”

“The implementation of food allergies policies has been a challenging subject here in Fairfield and in many other communities of our state. Creating this task force is a very important step towards providing best practices to our local boards of education,” Rep. McCarthy Vahey said.

The pervasiveness of food allergies is a growing public health concern; as many as 15 million people have food allergies. An estimated 9 million, or 4%, of adults have food allergies. Nearly 6 million or 8% of children have food allergies with young children.

According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. The economic cost of children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year.

The Connecticut Parent-Teacher Association, National Association of State Boards of Education and the Connecticut Nurses’ Association (CNA) all submitted testimony in favor of the legislation.