Jo Frost, known for her television shows and bestselling books (“Jo Frost Toddler Rules,” Family Matters, Supernanny and Family S.O.S.) was recently named as FARE’s first National Ambassador for the FARE Walk for Food Allergy. We spoke with Jo about her connection to food allergies and her role as a National Ambassador.
What is your personal food allergy story?
Like most with life-threatening allergies, I found out I was allergic to shellfish when I tried a traditional family dish called paella. It looked rather pretty but the prawns caused a severe reaction. I was a toddler when I was diagnosed with this medical condition and I am anaphylactic to all shellfish, all nuts and horses.
What strengths have you gained from living with a food allergy?
I am diligent and outspoken with confidence. I own and embrace my medical condition with a positive attitude. I do not see myself as an allergy “sufferer.”
Many people with food allergies or parents of children with food allergies have had some very scary experiences – have you had any frightening close calls?
Yes. I was given inaccurate information, went into anaphylaxis, took my epinephrine auto-injector and went immediately to the hospital, where I was in competent hands and was stabilized. It is important for all families to have an action plan, know the signs and symptoms of your life-threatening allergies and always carry your epinephrine auto-injectors at all times. Seek emergency medical attention ALWAYS.
In Allergic Living magazine, you stated, “This country lacks a compassion for those with severe food allergies.” How do you plan to use your role as a National Ambassador for the FARE Walk for Food Allergy to change that?
By being a positive role model and a voice for those who feel invisible. I will work alongside FARE to educate, and bring more awareness to this country so that through education and awareness, people have more empathy, so that we can change attitudes and laws that inhibit some from doing simple tasks like flying to see family members in other parts of the country. I also want to help bring awareness to staff to learn how to administer epinephrine auto-injectors at schools and day camps.
What prompted your interest in serving as a National Ambassador for the FARE Walk for Food Allergy?
I needed to do more … I could relate and empathize with the hundreds of families that would reach out to me with their common challenges. I had been humiliated and treated with disrespect and a lack of empathy on a domestic airline. I could see the good work that FARE was progressively making. I have a unique platform to use for the benefit of 15 million others with allergies. As a family advocate I want to stand up with others and be their champion, their voice.
Why should people take that extra step to raise vital funds for food allergy research, education, advocacy and awareness programs?
Because that extra step is what is truly going to be making a difference. Every day more and more people are becoming aware and educated, and we are able to find out so much more through research. It is a progressive road, one that if we continue to walk down together, can lead to such impactful change!
What do you think you will take away from serving as the National FARE Walk for Food Allergy Ambassador?
This isn’t about me — it is about all of us living with food allergies and life-threatening allergies. I feel privileged to be asked to be a FARE Walk for Food Allergy Ambassador and I hope I am able to bring more awareness and a sense of camaraderie among all who come together at these events.
FARE’s mission is to find a cure for food allergies and to keep individuals with food allergies safe and included. How does this fit with your personal perspective and mission as a food allergy advocate?
Like a glove. We are singing from the same hymn sheet. When like-minded souls come together it can create something truly profound … a movement … and that movement is what can influence change and make a difference.
What walk sites will you visit, and what do you look forward to about these visits?
I will be at the FARE Walk for Food Allergy in Los Angeles (Long Beach), Chicago, Lakewood, NJ; Las Vegas and Miami. It’s great to meet families and kids all there for one purpose. There is a sense of togetherness and the energy is wonderful when we are all together! I’m hoping people are going to come down and join me, bringing their friends and family and those who support them. Make sure you stop and say “hello”!
There are still more than two dozen FARE Walk for Food Allergy events this year! Funds raised by the FARE Walk for Food Allergy support FARE’s research, education, advocacy and awareness programs. To register, form a team or donate, please visit http://www.foodallergywalk.org.