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Meet the Founder of the Student Food Allergy Network (SFAN) at the University of Michigan

Founder: Nicholas Ditzler
Age: 20 (Junior in the fall)
SFAN Headquarters: University of Michigan
Other SFAN Locations: Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR) and University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)

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  • What sparked your idea to start a student group on campus?

Personally, I have food allergies to wheat, milk, egg, corn, soy, peanut, tree nuts and shellfish. When I founded the Student Food Allergy Network, one of the main goals I had was for the student organization to serve as a resource for families that have kids in different transition stages in life. Whether they are transitioning from middle school to high school, or high school to college, food allergies can often make this process stressful for both the parents and the child. All our members have been in these families’ shoes and know how difficult this process can be. By showing parents there are students who have gone away to college and are actively living with and managing their food allergies (while still living a normal college life), we hope to relieve some of the anxiety these parents face and serve as role models for the kids who have food allergies.

  • How many members do you have now?

We currently have over 50 members at our University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and Oregon State University locations, ranging from freshman to graduate students and representing all types of majors.

  • How did you make the connection to open the second chapter in Oregon?

One thing about food allergy is that it is something millions of people can relate to. Whether they have a family member who is allergic to shellfish, know a friend who has a peanut allergy, or they themselves have a food allergy, food allergies connect individuals of all backgrounds. When we were in the foundation process at the University of Michigan, I was amazed by the positive response we received both on campus and through our Facebook page. When students from the University of Virginia and Oregon State University expressed interest in starting their own food allergy organization, I gave them the idea of opening additional chapters of SFAN at their university. They welcomed the idea with open arms and it has been an amazing experience working together with a collective goal.

  • How can others go about doing something similar or getting involved on a college campus in other ways?

If someone is interested in getting involved with our organization or wants to start a chapter of the Student Food Allergy Network at their own high school or university, we recommend they contact us either on Facebook or via email (SFANexecutiveboard2014-15@umich.edu). We have all the information needed to start a chapter at their school, and we would greatly enjoy working with new individuals on spreading awareness of food allergies nationwide.

Learn more about the FARE College Food Allergy Program and the “Pilot Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Higher Education” on FARE’s website, and join FARE’s College Food Allergy Support Group on Facebook.

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