The Peanut-Free Cafe – a book about dealing with school lunch

In our present world of allergies, I’m actually rather surprised that I haven’t seen more book like “The Peanut-Free Cafe.” In this well written book we are presented with two dueling issues that more and more kids in elementary school are having to face – kids that can’t eat peanuts and kids who are incredibly picky.

Simon, the main character of this story, is a picky eater and only eats 4 foods – “bagels, green grapes, purple lollipops, and his favorite – Peanut Butter.” Grant is the new kid at school who has a severe peanut allergy.

When Grant comes to the Nutley school, Principal Filbert was conflicted. She wanted a safe space for Grant, but knew that many of her students brought peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day. The compromise that she came up with was to have a peanut-free table in the lunchroom.

Simon and Grant become fast friends, but at lunchtime Grant sat alone at the peanut-free table. Ms. Filbert talked to some kids to try and find a better solution and they came up with a way to encourage nut-free foods. Kids started to bring in some different lunches, but poor Simon was afraid to try anything new. Now he had found a way so that Grant wouldn’t have to sit alone at lunch, but instead, he found that he was having to sit by himself.

Simon finally relents and begs his mother to pack something else so that he can sit with his friends. He still eats his peanut butter, but saves it for after-school and on weekends.

When I found this book over the summer, I had not yet found out that J’s school had gone completely nut free this year. Now, a few months into the school year, this book truly hits home with our household. Nuts were a healthy way to get protein in my daughter’s diet and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were one of the few things she would actually eat in her lunch and almonds were a staple. I picked up this book at the library again and she agreed this this story is pretty spot on.

We have had to have a number of conversations about why our school has gone nut free. Children can bring nuts for lunch, but then they have to sit at the one table in the lunchroom that allows them. Since J has a number of friends that have allergies, she does understand, but it is still hard to figure out how to send in a healthy lunch with a finicky child.

It is important for kids who don’t have allergies to understand the world of those that do. Grant explains to all of the kids that if he eats “just one peanut or anything made with peanut oil,” he can’t breathe. He shows them his epi-pen to reinforce the fact. People often misuse the word “allergy,” but for so many kids true allergies are a serious issue. “The Peanut Free Cafe” is a great way to explain a difficult situation to young kids.

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