I have had a few different experiences to note. First, at a stadium for a college football game. Our biggest challenge here was figuring out who to speak with regarding outside food. After being passed around, we eventually spoke with a individual who asked that we bring along a letter from my son’s doctor specifying his needs. Second, that we print out an email she was sending us giving us permission to bring in outside food. We were to have both documents ready for review at the entry gates.
On game day, we packed a small cooler for my then 2.5-year-old son. We had no problems at the gate and my son enjoyed his first football game.
We had a different experience when trying to take my son to a PGA golf tournament event. If you’ve ever attended a PGA event, you know they have a VERY long list of regulations regarding entry into the event, including very specific policies about what can be brought into the golf tournament (no food of course!). They even specify the size of purse one is permitted to carry. We knew we would face a challenge with this event.
My husband visited this event earlier in the week alone and spoke with those at the gate. They reiterated the “no food” policy. Once inside the event, he determined the only thing my son would be able to eat that was available for purchase would be apples and bananas. How many apples and bananas can one kid eat in a day???
So then we began the arduous process of finding someone to speak with over the phone to find out how to proceed. Surely they must make exceptions to the rules? Let’s not forget that a large portion of the audience at events are over the age of 50, and there are many of those in that age group that either require medication or have medical needs that require a cooler. Can’t they make an exception for a 3-year-old? Was it really that crazy to ask for a reasonable accommodation to pack some food in a small bag so he could eat throughout the day? (BTW, they had no problem with the Epipen...only the food we wanted to bring in)
My son LOVES golf. He watches it on tv, goes to the driving range, has his own clubs.. He’s already a pro at Wii Tiger Woods Golf. He had been talking about going to the tournament for days. We couldn’t let him down! We talked to person after person who either gave us no answer or discouraged us from coming. It was a very stressful few days, and we actually never even spoke with any person who actually helped us. Why was this so hard, I wondered?
We just decided to try it. We packed a small bag with his Epipens, a Sunbutter sandwich, a snack bar, some raisins, and a couple small odds and ends. We had a copy of the letter from his doctor specifying his allergies. I was very concerned as he headed off with his Dad to his first event. He was SO excited, and I had visions of my poor son breaking down into tears at the gates because they wouldn’t let him in because of his food.
When all was said and done, they were able to get in, but not without some effort. I was very disappointed in how (unnecessarily) stressful the experience was for us. I don’t understand why the PGA does not have a policy for such things considering the prevalence of food allergies today. I do plan on contacting them with the hope they will make the process easier for other parents.
All in all, here’s what I suggest in case you find yourself in the situation where you’d like to take your child to any event where outside food is not permitted:
1. Ask your Allergist for a generic letter specifying your child’s food allergies AND specifying the need to carry an Epipen. Make copies and take a copy any time you are attending an event.
2. Start asking around AT LEAST two weeks before the event. Call, call, call. Talk to anyone and everyone and don’t stop talking until you find someone who says yes. When you finally get a person who can approve your situation, ask for written documentation so you have it in writing to show anyone who needs it.
3. Speak to the concessions manager if possible and find out what pre-packaged foods will be available (we would never buy any prepared food at events).
4. Pack light, and pack only what won’t be available at the event. Don’t pack bottled water or bags of chips or something that is available for purchase.
5. Try to pack food that can be eaten without being chilled. It will just make things a bit easier for you!
6. Once you arrive and make it through the gates, be sure to identify the location of the First Aid center.
This is just one of those situations we as parents have to be diligent in advocating for our children. Thankfully, most situations will be routine and most venues cooperative. Good luck!
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