Living with food allergies has unfortunately become quite common these days. Did you know that food allergies have increased by 50% in children in the past 20 years? Between gluten, nuts, dairy and sesame to name a few, it can be challenging to keep a safe kitchen for the family member(s) affected by the allergy. What makes this even more difficult is the age of the family member. If it is a child with the allergy, it’s even more important to separate out safe foods when kids start grabbing snacks on their own and cannot yet read labels. I have a child with a peanut allergy. Keeping things separate from her is incredibly important. From a young age, she was capable of climbing and getting into pretty much any cupboard she wanted to so we went with the combination locked cabinet approach. With some allergies, it is easy to eliminate the allergen altogether. With others, it can be more difficult especially when you have multiple children and family members. When it’s not possible to eliminate the allergen from the home completely, organizing your cupboards and pantry in a way that your child can still be independent is very possible. Even if you have eliminated the allergen completely, having foods labeled makes babysitters and other caregivers more comfortable so there are no questions about the safety of the item. While your organizational needs may vary based on the severity and type of food allergy, the below suggestions are a great way to get started on creating a safe, organized pantry.
Color Coded Containers: Decant and store safe snacks and foods in containers with a specific color top or sticker that your child recognizes as the “safe color.” You can also use red tape to create large X’s on unsafe foods, and keep them out of reach.
Labeled Bins and Containers: If your child is old enough to read, keeping baskets or bins within their reach with their safe foods in them. You can used colored baskets for the younger kids as well. I use bright pink labels and also include these custom labels from Minted. Not only do they help identify things for my daughter, but they are great for labeling her lunch box at school. They are available in a variety of different allergens.
Separate Shelves/Cabinets. You can use the same labeling techniques if you don’t have a dedicated pantry. If you have enough space, dedicating a whole cabinet or shelf with safe food, separate from unsafe food (usually up high) is a great solution as well.
Use these same color coding and labeling techniques for the fridge and freezer.
List of Allergies: Always keep a list of allergies inside the pantry or cabinets so babysitters, extended family and friends are always aware of the person’s allergy.
Teal Pumpkin Project
If you have a child with food allergies, likely you are familiar with the Teal Pumpkin Project. The Teal Pumpkin Project is dedicated to helping children with food allergies have a safe, fun and enjoyable Trick or Treating experience. When you put out a teal colored pumpkin, you are alerting trick or treaters that you have safe, non food items for those with an allergy. Because allergens can be hidden in so many treats, the Teal Pumpkin Project is non food items only. We fill our teal pumpkin with glow sticks, bubbles, stickers and other small items that kiddos would enjoy. For more information on how you can participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project, visit https://www.foodallergy.org/welcome-teal-pumpkin-projectr-insider
Ashley + Lindsay