Food Bullying: Lethal Ignorance

One of my favorite TV shows is Freaks and Geeks, a comedy (with some very serious scenes) about a bunch of high school kids, several of which are pretty, well, geeky. In one episode, one of the geekiest kids, who has a severe peanut allergy, gets teased by the school bully. It starts off as just mean, but then the kid surreptitiously puts peanut butter in the geek’s sandwich. The geek takes a bite and lands in the hospital, in a coma. I wasn’t kidding about the serious scenes.

This sort of bullying is known as food bullying, and it’s dangerous, as this article points out. It suggests that part of the problem is that the bullys don’t know how dangerous that can be. I agree with that – not comperehending the danger of food allergies leads a lot of people to do stupid things around people with allergies.

Education is a good way to battle this sort of threat – teaching kids about food allergies would go a long way toward preventing this sort of bullying, I think. But, I don’t think that’s on the radars of most schools. Most schools are much more aware of food allergies than they were 10 or 20 years ago, but the vibe I get from most food allergy parents is that they feel like their schools still don’t understand the seriousness of these allergies to the extent they should. I recently came across a blog by a student teacher who was puzzled that the parents of a boy with an allergy were upset with him/her for letting the kid touch candy.

Have your kids been bullied with food? I’d be interested to know. I was bullied some when I was a kid, but my allergies (bees, shellfish) meant I never had to worry about people teasing me with those. Is food bullying happening often?

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6 thoughts on “Food Bullying: Lethal Ignorance

  1. About a year ago this was a child in my allergy group who was threatened with one of his food allergies. The mom found out and called the school immediately. They had a special assembly where the principal talked with them regarding the complete inappropriate/seriousness of the threat. I was pretty impressed at the quickness of the response.

  2. I remember when I was in school we were on a school trip. Having to travel by plane, the kids around me started throwing peanuts at each other. I was scared to even move, having a serious nut allergy, because they were everywhere and had touched everything around me. Unless you or your kids have allergies people just don’t understand.

    • Ugh, that would be terrifying. I wonder about planes in general for Charlie. But I’ve known several severely-peanut allergic people who travel by plane and don’t have trouble. Having peanuts thrown at you though…

  3. I don’t have children but I was one of those children back in the day. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and back then, it was relatively unheard of to have food allergies. There weren’t nearly as many precautions, policies and procedures in place. I feel that the current way of handling it is both a blessing and a curse: it’s a blessing because it’s certainly raised awareness; but it’s also a curse because it serves to stigmatize kids with food allergies. They have to sit at a separate table, have attention drawn to them over it. And kids can be cruel. I certainly dealt with my share of bullying as a kid, but it was mostly due to my awful eczema.

    I was recently also diagnosed with Celiac disease. I was at a birthday party for a 17 year-old recently and found it funny that one of the kids was totally casual and knowledgeable about Celiac. Adults are the ones who tend to be confused, it seems!

    • Charlie has very minor eczema occasionally and to stave it off we have to keep him slathered in Vanicream in the winter. I imagine serious eczema could be pretty awful. Celiac is tricky, too. It’s interesting that it’s becoming common enough that kids know about it. I know a couple people with it an they are the ones who best understand Charlie’s food allergies. There are some similarities in the way it affects your life.

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