WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) North central Wisconsin farms could be the reason the Wausau School District is well below the national average for children with food allergies.
Research out of Stanford University shows kids who are exposed to farms, animals, and dirt are more likely to have a lifetime resistance to allergens but the Wausau School District Nutrition Services Director Karen Fochs suspects there could be another reason for the low percentage.
"There are a lot that could be under-reported for the simple fact that the students may chose to bring their own lunch to school and if that occurs the parents probably would not be fulling out a food allergy form," Fochs said.
Fochs confirmed the district has seen a gradual increase in the number of kids with food allergies over the last four years, but a new report out of the Journal of Pediatrics shows an increase in just the last year.
It's estimated 8 percent of all children in the United States have some sort of food allergy. One-hundred kids out of 2,600 have a food allergy in the Wausau School District, or about 3 percent.
The district has several policies and procedures in place to accommodate kids with food allergies. Fochs said though, some students with food allergies still fall through the cracks. Fochs said elementary school kids are the most difficult to protect.
"When they come to the window in the beginning of the school year, it's always kind of scary because they'll make a comment 'Oh, Mrs. Kreager, I'm allergic to cinnamon'."
The district can go as far as place a child as a "safe table" which is an area dedicated for children with severe allergies, but parents must fill out a food allergy form-- which sometimes eludes parents.