With an increase in the number of children suffering from food allergies, dietitians, along with other staff with the Sioux Falls School District, spend hundreds of hours every year making sure children don't have allergic reactions. The latest statistics from the CDC show that one out of every 25 children has a food allergy.
Sixth grader McKenzie Wilson is one of around 200 students in Sioux Falls Public Schools on a special diet. The 11-year-old has a gluten intolerance but is trying to incorporate more foods into her diet.
"My stomach hurts, and then sometimes I get a little dizzy and don't feel well," Wilson said.
Most of the other students on special diets have more severe reactions.
"A school actually only has the responsibility to do those things that are considered life-threatening. And it's entirely up to the school district if they would want to be more open into what they might work with," Sioux Falls School District Child Nutrition Supervisor Joni Davis said.
But you can't just simply say you have an allergy or intolerance and get a special meal. You have to have a doctor's note.
"Because we do need to have a diagnosis, have an understanding of what might be taking place, and be working with the dietitians and physician in regard to what's a substitution that could work for the student," Davis said.
When a student meets the requirement, Davis says they take great care by examining labels and ingredients and constantly updating meal plans.
Wilson's latest meal plan includes more foods with gluten.
"From first to third grades it was really bad. I really had to watch what I was eating. And then after that I could add a few more foods back in, and it's been better ever since," Wilson said.
Davis says the main allergies the district sees are protein and peanut allergies.
The Sioux Falls School District does not serve anything with peanuts. They also send letters to parents telling them to be mindful about it, but students bringing in peanut products are not completely banned.
Children with a peanut allergy have a place to sit at the opposite end of the lunch table, separate from those who bring food from home. Lunch staff is advised to keep those areas extra clean.