Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lindsay Fallon

Second Advisor

Gonzalo Bacigalupe

Third Advisor

Michael Pistiner


Food allergies are increasingly common and affect approximately one in thirteen students in the United States (US). Anaphylactic reactions can be unpredictable, severe, and sometimes life-threatening if not treated quickly and appropriately. School health policies and education surrounding food allergies vary substantially within and between states, as do guidelines that influence policy, and influence students’ experiences of school with food allergies. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced students’ experiences of their school communities. There is a limited research exploring student perspectives regarding food allergy policies, and none published to-date reflecting perspectives during the pandemic. Students’ voices are not always included in food allergy management and policy research. The current study was conducted to elicit elementary students’ voices during a unique moment in world history, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elementary school students’ stories, attitudes, and perspectives regarding food allergy management and school policies in New England were explored through semistructured, individual interviews (n = 7). A descriptive phenomenological approach was applied to the conceptualization of this project and thematic analysis of views shared. Parent (n = 29) and student (n = 11) questionnaire data were collected to supplement interview findings. Questionnaire results reflected student and parent experiences of variability in school-based food allergy policies and attitudes. Interview findings reflected that many students experienced COVID-19 precautions as protective against opportunities for exposure to allergens in school, wished that others knew more about food allergies, and reflected the general sense that food allergies were usually met with respect in school. Some called for increased education to promote awareness and practical knowledge within their school communities. Student impressions of food allergy management have diverse implications for policy. Student openness to improvements to education, in combination with the shared comfort expressed in others knowing about their unique food allergies, suggests that elementary school could be an appropriate place to integrate food allergy education. Additionally, food-allergy related comfort afforded by COVID-19 precautions indicates room for development in food allergy policy development and education to enhance perceptions of safety at school among students with food allergies.


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