Back-to-School Twitter Party

new_twitter_bird_vector_by_eagl0r-d2yth6gEach school year brings a fresh start for students – new teachers, friends, classes, or schools. It also brings a checklist of to-dos for parents of kids with food allergies to ensure that they are set up to have a safe, fun and successful year.

To kick off the Back to School season, we’ll be hosting a Twitter chat with members of our staff, partner organizations, bloggers, and other parents or individuals with food allergies. With many schools in session already, we’ll be discussing fun topics such as recipes for after-school snacks, tips for packing lunches, and ways to celebrate without food.

Details

Date: Friday, August 30
Time: 1pm EST
Hashtag: #AllergyChat
Moderator: @FoodAllergy

How to Participate

  • Be sure you are following @FoodAllergy on Twitter
  • Join the Twitter chat on August 30 at 1pm, EST by following @FoodAllergy and #AllergyChat
  • Tweet your advice to other parents by answering questions sent out from FARE @FoodAllergy

We hope you’ll join us!

FARE Kids Who Care: Anthony Schrecengost

Team Schrecengost!

Anthony Schrecengost, age 14, was one of two Nevada students out of 100 nationwide to receive a Prudential Spirit of Community Award for his volunteerism. Along with the award, Anthony received a $1,000 prize, $300 of which he donated to FARE! Anthony’s family has participated in the FARE Walk for Food Allergy in Las Vegas every year since 2009 and has raised more than $2,000 for food allergy education, advocacy, awareness and research. We asked Anthony to tell us more about what it’s like to live with food allergies, and why he continues to be an all-star supporter of FARE:

1. What are your food allergies? What’s it like having food allergies?

Like my two brothers, I am allergic to many foods. Some of the foods that I am allergic to include all milk products, eggs, beef, seafood, shellfish, all nuts (peanuts and tree nuts), coconut, bananas, all melons, all berries, green peppers, sweet potatoes, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, and many, many more food items.

Having food allergies is not great, but it is my life, so I deal with it. It is easier now that I am getting older because I understand more about food allergies and how eating foods that I am allergic to will affect my body. When I was younger it was harder because I was unable to eat a lot of the foods that my cousins or friends could eat. It was hard to go to birthday parties, school functions or restaurants. Some people didn’t understand what it was like to have food allergies. They thought I would only get a headache, rash or stomachache. They didn’t realize that I could possibly die if I ate the wrong foods. But, it is okay, because as I get older I try to educate others about what it is like having food allergies. I hope one day to become a pediatric allergist in Las Vegas. I want to help kids like me who have food allergies.

2. Tell us about how you have been fundraising for FARE.

I recently won an award and $1,000 for volunteering in Las Vegas. I chose to donate $300 to FARE. Also, I walk each year in the FARE Walk for Food Allergy and ask family members and friends to donate to this great cause.

3. Why did you want to do it? Why was it was important to you?

I want to help FARE all that I can so that FARE can continue to educate others about food allergies and also do research to maybe find out why people have food allergies or how people can one day get rid of their food allergies. This is why I try each year to hang posters throughout my community and ask local doctors and businesses to put FARE brochures out for their patients.

It is important to me to support FARE because I have severe food allergies. Sometimes I don’t understand how I got all of these food allergies. Both of my brothers also have food allergies and I know that there are a lot of kids like us who are challenged each day. I will always promote FARE and tell people how they are doing great things to promote awareness regarding food allergies, educating others, helping pass laws throughout the country and supporting medical research.

4. How can you be a good friend to someone with food allergies?

I think the best way to be a good friend to someone who has food allergies is to just be a “good” friend. Don’t try to get them to eat anything that they are allergic to. Never give them any food if you think it has or might have an ingredient that they are allergic to. Never bully them, tease them or make them feel bad about their food allergies. Always be supportive, compassionate and understanding if they can’t eat a certain food, participate in a certain task or go to a restaurant that they can’t eat at. Basically, just be a good and kind person.

5. What advice would you give a younger kid who was just diagnosed with food allergies?

I would tell a younger child that I also have food allergies and I understand how they feel and what they are going through. I would tell them that it is okay to feel upset and frustrated at times. But I would also tell them that it is going to be okay. They just have to take precautions in their life so that they don’t get sick or even worse. I would tell them to learn as much as they can about their food allergies. I would tell them about FARE and how great FARE is in helping people with food allergies.

I would also tell them how I survived going to school with having severe food allergies. I would give them all the helpful tips that I used daily to get through different situations. For example, at school I never ordered a school lunch, I always brought my own lunch. Also, my mom packed a small container of safe snacks for me. I would also tell them that they can still eat at restaurants but that they should tell their waiter and chef about their food allergies.

I would tell them that the biggest thing is to remember that they are wonderful and did nothing wrong to have food allergies. I would also remind them that as long as they were careful and did not eat anything they were allergic to, they would be okay and get used to having food allergies. I might not be able to eat a cheddar cheese potato chip, but I can eat a plain potato chip, and I am okay with that because at least I can still eat. Having food allergies is hard some days, but you can manage, survive and even thrive. Because of my food allergies, I have a great purpose in my life to help others who have food allergies. I want to become the best pediatric allergist so that I can help other kids like me.

For more information about Anthony’s volunteerism award, read this article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

To participate in a FARE Walk for Food Allergy in your area, visit www.foodallergywalk.org.

Ask the Expert: What concerns should I have about genetically modified foods and food allergies?

Scott Sicherer goes with Ask the Expert

Scott H. Sicherer, M.D., is a professor of pediatrics, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY, and is a member of FARE’s Medical Advisory Board.

Scott H. Sicherer, M.D., responds:

Genetically modified (“GM”) foods are those produced from GM organisms (“GMOs”), which are typically crops, including fruits, vegetables and grains. Prior to modern biologic techniques, farmers might have selected and bred better tasting or more hearty strains of their crops, a form of genetic engineering.

In the past decades, it has become possible to insert genes that can, for example, make a plant resistant to specific diseases or insects, make a plant easier to grow with less chemical weed killers, or improve how it ripens.

Arguments for pursuing GM foods include the need to keep up with worldwide food production needs; to reduce costs, pollution, and use of chemicals to manage crops; and to develop foods with better nutrients. About 85 to 90 percent of corn and soy produced in the United States is GM.

The general safety of GM foods is a topic of strong interest in the international public health community. There is broad scientific consensus that GM foods on the market pose no greater risk than their normal counterparts, although there are skeptics and critics. Nonetheless, there are no documented ill effects. Regulatory and scientific agencies have developed international guidelines to address safety, with attention to nutrition, toxicity and a variety of concerns in addition to allergy.

With regard to allergy, the potential concerns include: transfer of a known allergen, creation of a new allergen, or having a plant produce more of a protein that is or may be an allergen. The Codex Alimentarius Commission of the World Health Organization has recommended a “weight-of-evidence” approach to evaluate GM foods for allergy risks, meaning that multiple forms of safety assessment are undertaken and considered. These include studies to address: Has the protein introduced caused allergy or illness when previously eaten? Does the protein resemble the many well-characterized allergenic proteins? Does it behave like typical allergens, for example with resistance to digestion? Does it alter the amount of proteins, including any allergens, the plant was making?

Although there is currently no evidence that GM foods are more allergenic or have somehow contributed to the apparent increase in food allergies, there are no comprehensive studies on this topic. Most experts do not include GM foods high on their “working list” of reasons for the increase in food allergy because there is little scientific reason to suspect a connection, and many other theories are more compelling. However, attention to the risk of allergy is an ongoing concern.

Additional crops and also GM animals are under study. Experiments are also underway to use genetic engineering to develop less allergenic forms of common food allergens. It remains a key focus to ensure the safety of these foods from an allergic point of view in the future, but the products currently on the market have been widely studied and appear to be safe.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.

What Every Parent Needs to Know About Section 504 Plans

busA food allergy may be considered a disability under federal laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

FARE recommends that parents of children with a food allergy create, in collaboration with their school, a written food allergy management plan. One type of plan is called a 504 Plan.

What is a 504 plan?
Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that was designed to protect
the rights of individuals with physical or mental impairments in programs that receive federal assistance. This includes public or private schools that receive federal funding. Parents of children with food allergies may refer to a “504 Plan” as the accommodation plan that allows safe and inclusive access to activities at school.

What are some examples of accommodations?
Examples of common accommodations include:

  • Allergens are restricted from the classroom
  • Teacher and bus driver are trained to recognize and treat a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • Food is not used for rewards, crafts or in treat bags
  • Birthdays are celebrated with nonedible treats
  • Hands are washed (or hand wipes are used) before and after meals and snacks

Does a 504 plan mean my child is disabled? I don’t want my child to be labeled.
“Disability” is a loaded term. Remember, it is only a word. Dis-able means unable and the truth is that many of our children are unable to eat or, in some cases, come into contact with food or food residue without risk of a life-threatening reaction.

Is an Individual Health Care Plan (IHCP or IHP) a substitute for a 504 plan?
No. If a student has a health or mental health impairment that is considered a disability and needs aids or services (for example: special seating at lunch, a teacher who is trained to recognize anaphylaxis), then the child should be evaluated for a 504 Plan.

What about extracurricular activities at school? Does Section 504 apply?
Yes. Section 504 (Subpart D) ensures that students with disabilities have an
equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. Section 504 regulations (34 CFR 104.37(a)(1) require access to extracurricular activities in “such a manner as is necessary to afford students with a disability an equal opportunity for participation in such services and activities.”

My son’s school celebrates with food almost every week. They asked me to send in a “safe treat box” so I did. my son came home many times this year upset about being excluded from all of the fun ice cream, pizza parties and cupcakes. By the end of the year, he would not eat from his ‘safe treat box’ at all. So he sat there eating nothing while the other kids celebrated. What can help?

In a private setting, it’s appropriate to take on most of the responsibility for your child. For example, at your neighbor’s barbeque, you may need to bring your child’s entire meal. However, at school, your child should not be excluded from activities because of his food allergies. Your child is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The best way to handle these issues is before they arise by agreeing upon what is needed for your child to participate and documenting it in a 504 Plan. When negotiating these plans, the team will decide on how birthdays, holidays and other occasions will be celebrated and how your son can access these activities safely in the least restrictive environment. Many schools (due to wellness, obesity, food allergies, etc.) are moving to food-free celebrations using games and rewards such as extra recess or no-homework passes.

We are all hoping for a cure for food allergies, but until that day comes, our children need accommodations at schools, at restaurants, on airplanes and beyond. Each time we take the time to learn and educate others, we make our dream of a safe and accessible world closer to reality.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.

New Action Plan for Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Now Available

FAAEPthumb FARE has released the new Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, formerly the Food Allergy Action Plan. This written document outlines recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction, signed by a child’s physician and includes emergency contact information. It should be on file for every student with food allergies.

The updated plan was revised by FARE’s new Education Working Group, a multidisciplinary group of food allergy experts that includes support group leaders, two members of FARE’s Medical Advisory Board, experienced parents of children with food allergies, an adult with food allergies, a dietitian, psychologist and a school nurse. The plan was approved by FARE’s Medical Advisory Board.

The document presents critical information including allergen(s), symptoms and treatment instructions in an easy-to-follow format—critical in an anaphylactic emergency.

Download the write-able PDF to see what the new plan looks like, and please let your physician, school nurse, or other parents know it is now available!