Parents worry their six-year-old girl will starve as her school has banned KFC from the premises.
Akira Gujadhur has Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), which was triggered when she got a throat infection at 18-months-old.
She rejected all food after battling the illness – apart from bite-sized pieces of Popcorn Chicken.
The primary school child hasn’t strayed from her diet ever since and her mum and dad make sure she gets sufficient nutrients by giving her vitamins.
Akira’s parents, Raj and Hem, have gone above and beyond to keep their daughter fed, spending thousands of pounds on takeaways and getting KFC to deliver a month’s supply of chicken during lockdown.
But they fear their daughter is going to struggle when she starts at a new school that specialises in teaching autistic children.
Portfield School in Christchurch, Dorset, doesn’t allow KFC on site.
Akira’s dad Raj thinks this is unfair, especially as he was able to order fast food to his daughter’s last school.
He said: “We are very upset by how we have been treated. I think the school is acting so irresponsibly.
“Akira’s old school was a mainstream school and were feeding her the popcorn chicken with no problem at all.
“But it cost around £2,000 a year and the local authority basically said food is not part of her educational needs so they could not pay for it anymore.
“Portfield School have said they are happy to offer her a place but don’t want her to eat popcorn chicken because it’s fast food and they say she needs to eat healthily.”
The Gujadhurs appealed the school’s decision not to ban KFC but lost their case at a local authority tribunal hearing.
Raj added: “I just don’t understand it because it’s a specialist school for people like Akira who have additional needs.
“Akira can’t speak and she doesn’t understand.
“The local authority is saying she can’t go to school without food but the school is saying she can’t eat the only thing she eats, at school.
“The tribunal seem to basically be saying it’s the parents’ problem.
“They are saying if we feel she can’t stay at school without food, we will have to go every lunchtime, pick her up, feed her and bring her back.”
The dad, a senior actuarial analyst, says it would be difficult to take Akira to KFC every day during lunch due to work commitments
He said: “The school is 50 minutes from my work and we’re not allowed to feed her at the school, we’d have to take her KFC or take her home to feed her then bring her back.
“My wife doesn’t drive and I can’t take hours out of work. The only alternative is to starve her at school.
“They’re not being helpful at all.
“We’ve got friends who have children there. One of them only eats sausages and she is allowed to bring sausages to school but they won’t let Akira have popcorn chicken.
“How can they force her not to eat the only thing she has been eating for the last five years?
“If they said she could eat at school we would be happy to pay for the deliveries and I don’t see how it would affect other children as once delivered it could be put into a lunchbox and look similar to any other lunch.”
A spokesperson for Portfield School, which is managed by Autism Wessex, assures that it prioritises students’ well-being.
They added: “At Autism Wessex, our top priority is the welfare and safety of all of our students and service users, and at no point would we allow any child or young adult to be put at risk of harm.
“As the privacy of each child is one of our highest priorities, we will not be commenting in relation to this specific case; only that we are required to follow the judge’s ruling as an outcome from a tribunal hearing.”
Councillor Sandra Moore, portfolio holder for children and families at Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council, said: “We are aware of the outcome of the tribunal and accept the findings.
“We are working with Portfield School and the family over the arrangements to support the successful transition to the new school.”