In our June 21, 2017 webinar, “Advocacy 101: How to Influence Policies and Improve Lives,” FARE advocacy team members Jen Jobrack (Senior National Director for Advocacy) and Jon Hoffman (Associate Director for Advocacy) share how you can help drive changes that make life safer and simpler for people with food allergies.
Jen puts the size of the U.S. food allergy community in perspective – bigger than the populations of New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles combined! She points out that many food allergy patients and parents are already advocates without knowing it, because many of the actions taken to manage food allergies, such as working with school personnel or training others to use an auto-injector, already constitute advocacy.
Before attempting to create change, it’s vital to do your homework. What is needed to resolve the issue you want to address? Are changes to federal, state or local laws needed? Is a new regulation or policy sufficient to accomplish your goal? Is the problem a lack of compliance with the laws already in place? Has your idea been tried before? If so, what can you learn from that experience?
It’s important to identify the jurisdiction that governs your issue of interest – city, county, state or federal – and establish connections with the key players in that jurisdiction. Before trying to change the law, see what can be accomplished by taking other steps first.
The webinar highlights laws supported by FARE that relate to stock epinephrine in schools and public entities as well as allergen information and training in restaurants. Jon points to FARE toolkits that community volunteers can use to push for change. Tips are given on how to craft pitches, emails and testimonies to influence legislators. Two valuable takeaways: don’t yell, and if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t guess. Instead, offer to find the answer, and follow up on that commitment.
A Q&A session at the end of the webinar discusses how to encourage schools to comply with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for managing food allergies, and invites participants to join FARE’s advocacy efforts.