Tucson Jewish schools vigilant about food allergies


Food allergies among children have become more commonplace in recent years, and Tucson’s Jewish schools are paying attention. “Not only has there been an increase in allergies, but there’s been an increase in the severity” of allergies among students at Tucson Hebrew Academy, says Ronnie Sebold, the school’s director of admissions.

“We became nut-free four years ago. Our chef always uses whole, fresh ingredients,” she notes, adding that THA has addressed a lot of allergies by not using preservatives in their school lunches. “We eliminated most of the dyes and trans-fats. The only drinks that are served at THA are milk, water or 100 percent juices.”

Everyone knows which children have allergies at the school. A list is posted in the nurse’s office and by the front door of every classroom at THA. “The chef knows who they are,” says Sebold. “If a child has a gluten allergy he’ll make an alternative that day. Instead of breaded fish the chef will offer plain, broiled fish.”

Preschools and religious schools including those at Temple Emanu-El and Congregations Anshei Israel and Or Chadash, have also seen an increase in students with allergies, and have become nut-free in the past five years. They also post the names of students with allergies. “We let staff know at the beginning of the year which students have allergies and also give them copies of our emergency procedures,” says Rina Liebeskind, education director at Congregation Or Chadash.

“We put up laminated photos of children with allergies in every classroom and next to the snack area,” says Lyn Henry, director of Temple Emanu-El’s Strauss Early Childhood Education preschool and kindergarten.

A physician comes in to talk to parents about allergies at Congregation Anshei Israel, says Lynne Falkow-Strauss, director of CAI’s Esther B. Feldman preschool/kindergarten. These days, “so many parents are grateful and they’re surprised that we’re nut-free.”