Kids with food allergies don’t remain kids forever. As they grow up, they are faced with new challenges, as well as new opportunities to take ownership of managing their food allergies. For 11-year-old Gavin DelGrande, he saw the transition from elementary school to middle school as an opportunity to educate his school staff about food allergies.
When Gavin first entered 6th grade in Tewksbury, NJ, he started noticing that his new middle school did not appear to him to be as conscientious about food allergies as his elementary school. While the nurse still did a great job of informing parents, and he still was provided a nut-free table at lunch time, a lot had changed. There were subtle differences in teacher awareness that made Gavin feel vulnerable and distracted from learning at times, and he decided to take action.
After discussing his feelings with his mom, she encouraged him to share his perspective with teachers. So, Gavin created a PowerPoint presentation to give his perspective on what it’s like to be a student in a classroom with a potentially life-threatening condition. Dressed sharply in a blazer and khakis, he delivered his first presentation to a roomful of school staff members from a local school on Dec. 8. He shared information and statistics about food allergies and also outlined the actions teachers and nurses take that make him feel safe, as well as those that led to his feelings of vulnerability and distraction.
At the end of his presentation, Gavin demonstrated how easily food proteins can be transferred from hand to objects without being seen. He used a special lotion* on his hands, and then touched a number of objects in the room. He then shut off the lights and used a black light to show that, even though invisible to the naked eye, the “proteins” on his hands could be transferred to other items. The teachers have had quite a response! Many came up to him after the demonstration to tell him that they would never again leave the cafeteria without washing their hands. This creative demonstration helped them learn the importance of washing their hands with soap and water rather than using hand sanitizer, which does not remove food proteins.
Gavin went on to present to a few other local schools, and has more appearances scheduled in the coming months. One school district even featured Gavin’s presentation in their newsletter to express their gratitude for sharing his experiences and raising awareness about food allergies. We are so proud of Gavin for speaking out and helping teachers better understand what it’s like to live with food allergies!
If you are interested in making your own presentation in a school or community building, check out these free resources from FARE:
- Be a PAL: Protect a Life From Food Allergies
- Elementary School Presentation
- Middle/High School Presentation
*The lotion Gavin used is called GloGerm lotion, which is a clear lotion that glows under UV light, typically used to simulate the spread of germs on hands. Please note: FARE does not review, test, sponsor, endorse or recommend any products or services that may appear on our blog.