Leon County Schools change plans to add PB&J to every cafeteria

By: Jacob Murphey | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 28, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – A proposal that would add peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to schools that previously didn't serve peanut products is no longer moving forward, according to Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna.

"It's not worth it, it's not worth the peace of mind for these parents," Hanna said, explaining his decision to pull back the plan.

The backlash began Tuesday, when several parents noticed a blurb in a newsletter email that mentioned PB&J coming to cafeterias as soon as April.

Kristine McCallister has an eight-year-old with severe peanut allergies.

"Honestly I was pretty livid, I was hot," she said. "At that moment I didn't feel like my kid was safe in Leon County Public Schools."

She went to the Superintendent's mobile office hours Tuesday night to share her concerns. McCallister said he hadn't seen the email, but expressed concern.

On Friday, Hanna explained the change was supposed to come next year, when the district launched a new initiative to give every elementary school student free meals. District leadership wanted the free meal program to include tastier options. Hanna said the current peanut butter alternative served in some schools doesn't meet the mark.

"They don't like soy butter as a replacement to peanut butter," he said.

After the backlash from parents, Hanna said the district took a step back.

"I have the utmost respect for these parents, and that's why there's a process," he said. "When they brought it to our attention we reevaluated and said you know what, just keep it like it is."

Hanna suggested chicken nuggets or mac n' cheese could replace peanut butter sandwiches at schools that currently avoid peanut products.

McCallister hadn't heard about the reversal when WCTV told her Friday afternoon, but said she was relieved. Still, she thinks there's a bigger issue here.

"What's to say this doesn't happen again a few years down the line," she said. "I just feel like there aren't enough laws in place."

Florida, like most states, provides little guidance in law about how schools handle allergens. LCS has an 11-page policy document on its website, explaining guidelines for how teachers, students, and parents should act to avoid a medical emergency.

For McCallister, this episode provides plenty to worry about.

"I feel like it should just be everyone's number one concern," she said.

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