Connor deMayo, a high school sophomore, just became an Eagle Scout after completing a community service project designed around making restaurants in his town more allergy aware. He enlisted the help of the boys in his Boy Scout troop and set out to educate the restaurants in New Canaan, Connecticut on food allergy safety. With guidance from a local FARE-affiliated group, he was able to reach chefs, owners, managers, and wait staff in more than 25 restaurants. We asked Connor to tell us more about his project:
1. What are your food allergies? What’s it like having food allergies?
I was diagnosed at age one to the following foods: milk, eggs, sesame, peanuts and tree nuts.
Having food allergies means you can never let your guard down and always be vigilant. By understanding what you eat and reading labels carefully and being careful when ordering in restaurants you can make eating less scary and more enjoyable.
2. Tell us about your Eagle Scout project.
My Eagle project was to provide local restaurants in my town awareness training of food allergies and cross contact, including ideas on how to serve food-allergic customers. I put together a 30 minute awareness presentation, including FARE’s restaurant video. Then, I organized and led more than 16 friends/scouts into four teams and we each set out to all the restaurants in my town (more than 25). I put in more than 170 hours from beginning to end.
We trained owners, managers, kitchen staff and wait staff. They all were all eager to learn more. I also gave each restaurant FARE’s kitchen posters of the top allergic foods as well as a folder with copies of the presentation. The restaurants were all very surprised at the rise in food allergies, many of the staff had no idea a customer could actually die from a food or even from cross contact. My friends who have food allergies as well noticed a big difference when they ordered at these restaurants. They definitely made changes in their restaurant procedures after hearing my presentation.
3. Why did you want to do it? Why was it was important to you?
Eating out is scary for many food-allergic people. Increasing awareness makes this safer and more enjoyable, especially for pre-teens and teens who are just starting to navigate eating out without their parents. A few simple precautions may save lives. If I saved one life by putting in all these hours and training then it was all worth it.
4. How would you advise other kids or adults who want to do something similar?
Recruit your friends and an adult to help. I was fortunate to have Mrs. Helen Jaffe as my mentor during the project; she is the Chairperson of a FARE-affiliated group in Connecticut. She was very helpful to me during this project. Ask your local Boy Scout troop to help you as well.
5. How can you be a good friend to someone with food allergies?
Treat others the way you would want to be treated! My friends have my back and ask me if it’s ok to go to a certain restaurant for dinner and if it’s safe for me to eat there.
6. What advice would you give a younger kid who was just diagnosed with food allergies?
Take it seriously; have your epinephrine on you at all times; always read labels; and work with your parents to get educated. I would direct them to FARE and their great website with lots of resources.
Thank you, Connor, for helping to make eating out safer for your friends and neighbors with food allergies! Visit our website to learn more about dining out with food allergies and the ServSafe Allergens Online Course for Restaurants.