In Hamilton, the words “food fight” no longer inspire scenes of a bloody Caesar (the Roman leader or the alcoholic beverage; both are equally tyrannical and messy). There will be no more throwing of milk cartons across a cafeteria. Nor will anyone whip oranges through the air so masterfully they might almost rival the trajectory of rockets in space. No. In Hamilton, particularly in restaurants and an elementary school, food fight will not mean a fight with food, but a fight for it and against it.
Two cases present themselves: the Stock Epinephrine Auto-Injector Pilot Project (SEAPP) and Elodie Glover’s return to her elementary school. Let us deal with one at a time. Trying to digest too much at once may cause heartburn, or poor writing and argumentation. If there’s a difference between the two, I don’t kn–belch–ow it.
Hamilton’s all-out warfare against food—or at least nuts, diary, and shellfish—begins in 2013 with the tabling of SEAPP. Before getting into the nuts and bolts of it, we have to ask: during all the lawyer consultations, policy meetings, and city council debating, didn’t anyone say the acronym out loud? SEAPP. No thank you, Hamilton Council. I’d rather not see your dingly-dong, even if it is just meat.
The inner details of SEAPP are equally unappealing, albeit well intended. In reaction to the death of a 12 year old who succumbed to an unknown allergy at a Burlington food court (Burlington is in Hamilton, right? Answer: wrong), SEAPP works to stock allergy auto-injectors into at least two food courts, Jackson Square and Eastgate Mall. Security guards, who— with some of the $82,000 allotted to the project—have received appropriate training, will administer the epinephrine should there be an allergic reaction. The remaining funds for the project go McMaster University to monitor the effectiveness of the campaign.
While one death is too many, the actual implementation is more scrambled than an egg. The number of security officials they will train and the parameters of the monitoring have yet to be confirmed. In a typical Hamiltonian fashion (i.e. constant bickering), much of the discussion has surrounded the legal liability of EpiPen usage. No one wants to try to save a life if their life won’t be saved in return. An example: doing the dishes and having no one do your laundry. Thanks, Mom.
Like my weekend schedule and the enjoyment therein, the project has slowed considerably. Currently only two auto-injector locations are being established and training has already stilted. This, too, says nothing of the slight pushback from the Canadian restaurant association, which may further slow business and delay the opening of new establishments.
Still, questions remain. How large will the project be? What will happen it it shows poor results? What of high security guard turnover or fast food employees who know where the injectors are? Will anyone else be trained besides those slow, cumbersome security guards who can’t even stop people from loitering effectively?
In a year, answers may come, we may see results, and we might even save lives. What is certain is that the dwindling tax reserve will be all that much smaller, an investment will be made, and a person at McDonalds—now versed in proper injections—will still mix up your order. In this way, Hamilton has become like having spinach every day for lunch. No one will trade you for it, but at least no one will bug you for it either.
Elodie Glover’s case further illustrates Hamilton’s befuddling fight against the more oppressed members of the food hierarchy. In October 2013, Lynne Glover pulled her daughter from Holy Name of Jesus School due to lack of progress and cooperation over a conflict about allergy policies. After countless meetings with the associated principals, vice principals, and school board members that went nowhere, she filed a complaint to the Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, stating that Elodie was discriminated against by the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (didn’t I say Hamiltonian fashion was legal brawls?).
Microwave the legal dish, add a spice of back and forth mediation by the Tribunal, then stir it all together and a premature settlement will rise in September 2014. At the school, students must avoid bringing dairy and egg products, and those in Elodie’s class are unable to consume them at all. Students’ lunch boxes are checked every morning and, if any banned product is found, it is replaced with a similarly healthy food.
While the resolution is still undergoing, the case is interesting not only for its juxtaposition with the EpiPen surge, but because of its numerous implications on allergy sensitivity. Firstly, parents are still giving eggs to children, which should be a crime itself. Secondly, there is a divide in the legal understanding of allergies. Hamilton’s school board treats allergies as a medical condition under Sabrina’s Law, a law that functions to reduce exposure to anaphylactic triggers, whereas the human rights complaint falls under discrimination. The little gray area between the two terms is wiggle room for an all-out food fight.
More importantly, the vagueness of the terminology and the resulting battle have opened up inquiries about other allergens. What of dust mites? Seafood? Bees? Should all the bees be picked out and sent away from schools? If so, I’ll use my cell phone more often. That’ll teach those bees.
And what of the possible adverse discrimination to other children, especially those who eat only peanut butter or who don’t want greens or come on Mom, what is this bologna? It certainly isn’t bologna, that’s for sure.
And what of the later years, where high schools and universities and the so-called real world are less than accommodating? I mean, with a name like Elodie, some may say her fate is even destined.
While dark comedy is dark (darker than the chocolate milk she can’t drink, certainly) and these extrapolations may sound trite, Elodie’s case brings with it the nasty repercussion of dissatisfaction. If any adverse form of discrimination may be sufficient to warrant a human rights violation, then where does the slippery slope stop?
The answer is hard to come by, and the question itself may be fallacious. All that can be said is that, for a while, a few children aren’t going to laugh so hard that milk comes out of their nose.