Friday, August 22, 2014

To Feed, or Not to Feed?

I've been following an interesting discussion on an ALSC list-serv about serving snacks in programs.  Nearly everyone writing in is advocating avoiding food at programs for young children.  Somewhere between one in twelve and one in sixteen kids have a serious food allergy, and this number seems to be on the rise, according to the CDC.  This becomes a safety concern, and also an issue about inclusion.  If parents have to prepare for a fight with their left-out children at every storytime where snacks are served or you do a food-related craft, how likely are they to return?

Tricky stuff, since it is fun to include food in programs, and we have heard for years that a great way to make teens feel welcome at library programs is to feed them!  How do you approach this issue?


Jennifer said...

I would prefer not to include food in programs for young children (storytimes etc.) but because of various factors (outside programmers, parents who insist on feeding their children snacks, etc.) it's not really possible to control. I do clearly market programs at which there will be food, like my We Explore programs which serve a snack, and ask that parents of children with allergies contact me beforehand. So far, no one has allergies - if someone did, I would do just fruit or something safe instead of having an alternative as I don't think it's reasonable to expect most toddlers to understand why they can't have something, or why their friend is getting something different. However, this doesn't cover my colleague's storytimes, at which people tend to produce snacks without warning, and she sometimes gives out snacks as well. I usually tell people that if they have severe allergies, *these* are the programs they can safely attend, as no food is served and parents who bring out snacks are asked to put them away as this is a "no-food" program.

Polly said...

We do not serve food at 99% of our programs for children, nor do we allow our programmers to use food for crafts (we had one who wanted to use Peanut Butter to make a birdfeeder, so we just banned it wholesale). When we do have food (like for our Teddy Bear Tea), we ask to be informed of any food allergies, but make sure everything is peanut free whether we hear from anyone or not.

Julie Kinney said...

The library I currently work at does not allow any food to be served at any of our programs. It's frustrating to attend webinars on teen programming and have more than half of the programs featured involve food of some kind.

I'm not sure where the policy came from--it was in place when I started about a year ago. I'm guessing part of it was a reaction to allergies. We are a county library and our county risk management team is very pro-active in discouraging some types of programming that other libraries do without hesitation. It's very frustrating--I can't compete with the Boys and Girls Clubs or other after school activiteis that offer food.

I've learned to be very creative in my programming.