Food Allergies in 2013: A Year in Review

What a remarkable year! As a community, we have accomplished so much to make life better for those with food allergies. With so many important milestones taking place in 2013, we decided to take a look back at some of the significant moments in food allergies from this year:

10. New auto-injectors became available
In 2013, two new epinephrine auto-injectors came on the market, providing more options to patients.

9. World Allergy Week and Food Safety Month were dedicated to food allergies
Demonstrating the growing prevalence and awareness that food allergy is a global public health issue, both World Allergy Week in May and Food Safety Month in September were dedicated to educating the public about food allergy.

8. Sports teams showed their support
Northwestern University hosted the first-ever peanut-free college football game in 2013. Additionally, Major League Baseball teams across the country welcomed families managing food allergies for nut-free or nut-controlled games. The Seattle Mariners, along with other teams, even invited kids with food allergies to throw out the first pitch.

7. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published the first national school food allergy guidelines
These guidelines are intended to support the implementation of school food allergy management policies in schools and early childhood programs, and guide improvements to existing practices. Implementing these guidelines may help schools reduce allergic reactions, improve response to life-threatening reactions and ensure current policies are in line with laws that protect children with serious health issues.

6. Celebrities raised awareness
Celebrities like Julie Bowen, Adrian Peterson, Jerome Bettis, Jo Frost and Kenton Duty stood up to help bring awareness to the serious nature of food allergies. They spoke up on talk shows and public service announcements, and told their stories about their connection to the cause. Additionally, prominent bloggers gathered for the first annual Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference (FABlogCon) for a weekend of learning, support and inspiration.

5. FARE launched a public awareness campaign about food allergy bullying
During Food Allergy Awareness Week in May, FARE released a public service announcement about the growing concern of food allergy bullying. The video has more than 36,000 views on YouTube and helped bring attention to the issue. In December, a bill was filed which would require schools to put in place a policy that addresses food allergy bullying.

4. The media shined the spotlight on food allergies
The New York Times made a splash with their “Allergy Busters” article about the latest treatment for food allergies; they also ran an opinion column by author Curtis Sittenfeld urging increased availability of epinephrine in schools. And Anderson Cooper hosted teens Danielle and Lauren Mongeau, who advocated for the successful passage of a bill in Rhode Island that created a food allergy awareness training program for restaurants. Also related to restaurant awareness - FARE and the National Restaurant Association partnered to create the first comprehensive, interactive national training program for restaurant personnel to help them become more food allergy aware.

3. The FARE Walk for Food Allergy had a record-breaking season
The 2013 FARE Walk for Food Allergy season was the largest in its history, raising $3.6 million for food allergy research, advocacy, awareness, and education – a $1.2 million dollar increase from 2012.

2. The Discovery Channel aired a special documentary about food allergy
Narrated by Steve Carell, this documentary explored what it is like to live with life-threatening food allergies, how families and individuals managing food allergies are working to raise awareness in their communities, and the vital research underway to find effective treatments and a cure.

1.  The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act was signed into law
On November 13, President Obama signed this historic and potentially lifesaving legislation – the first federal law encouraging schools to stock epinephrine for use in allergic emergencies. At the signing ceremony, the president revealed that his own daughter, Malia, is allergic to peanuts.

Thank you to everyone who has volunteered, donated, and helped raise awareness about food allergies in 2013. We look forward to building on the momentum of this banner year to bring us even further toward fulfilling our mission in 2014: safety and inclusion for those with food allergies, while relentlessly seeking a cure.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Benefit Those with Food Allergies

When it comes to food allergies, resolve to make 2014 a safe and fulfilling year for you and your family. The beginning of a new year is a good time to take a step back and think about what more you can do for yourself, a loved one with food allergy, and the food allergy community. We hope you’ll join us in making this year a great one by being prepared, raising awareness, and advocating for all those with food allergies. Here are a few New Year’s resolutions to add to your list:

1. Be prepared in case of an allergic reaction
Accidents happen. Make it your goal to take every precaution necessary to be prepared in case of an allergic reaction.

  • Wear emergency medical identification at all times. Through our partnership with MedicAlert, we offer discounted medical IDs and services through the MyVoice program. Whether you have a food allergy yourself or are the parent of a child with food allergies, the MyVoice program is there for you to help communicate your vital medical information in an emergency situation.
  • Always carry your epinephrine auto-injector wherever you go. Make it your goal to never leave home without your medication!
  • Develop an action plan. Work with your doctor to fill out a Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. This document outlines recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction, is signed by your physician and includes emergency contact information.

2. Volunteer your time to raise awareness about food allergies
There are many opportunities to get more involved with educating others and advocating for those with food allergies.

  • Sign up for a FARE Walk for Food Allergy or volunteer to help make your local event a success.
  • Give a presentation at a school, library, or workplace. You can use one of our template presentations to educate others and raise awareness in your community. You can also purchase a children’s book to read to a classroom at a local school.
  • Sign up for the FARE Advocacy Action Center to make sure you are notified when legislation in your area is pending that needs your support.

3. Learn something new about food allergy
Educating yourself and others about the serious nature of food allergies is critical to moving our cause forward.

  • Sign up for our free monthly webinars. FARE hosts educational webinars designed to help you live life well with food allergies. Each month, we feature leading experts discussing the topics related to food allergy that you most want to hear about.
  • Subscribe to our blog to keep up with the latest news. Our blog features recipes, news, activities, and more about all the most important matters in food allergy today.

Thank you for your support in 2013, and we look forward to fulfilling our New Year’s resolutions along with you!

FARE Kids Who Care: Aron Rabin

AronandGoldaSix-year-old Aron Rabin approached his mom one day with an idea for a way to raise money to “help doctors find a cure for food allergies.” Aron, who is allergic to tree nuts and fish, wanted to make awareness bracelets to sell to friends and family. What started as a simple idea has grown into a hugely successful fundraiser! Aron has raised $1,115 so far selling bracelets, and has helped spread awareness and educate others in the process. We asked Aron a few questions about himself and his fundraiser:

1. What are your food allergies? What’s it like having food allergies?
I am allergic to tree nuts and fish. I feel alone sometimes. Some people have lunches with nuts and fish in it and I can’t sit with them. It makes me feel kind of sad that I can’t be with my friends at lunch.

2. Tell us about how you have been fundraising for FARE.
My mom and I made bracelets to sell to our friends and family to raise money. We made teal, black, and glow in the dark options.

3. Why did you want to do it? Why was it important to you?
I wanted to raise money to give to doctors so they could make a medicine or liquid that would make my allergies go away. I feel it’s very important so I don’t feel alone.

bracelets4. How can you be a good friend to someone with food allergies?
The truth is that some people are different than others but you can still be their friend and treat them nicely!

5. What advice would you give a kid or a friend who was just diagnosed with food allergies?
I would tell them to always check with people who serve them food to make sure it’s safe. I would also tell them to read labels.

Thank you to Aron and the Rabin family for your support and for being an inspiration to other kids!

Let’s Make it Food Allergy Awareness YEAR!

We heard from many of you who helped spread the word during Food Allergy Awareness Week – from going into your children’s classrooms to educate students and teachers, to sharing your story with local media outlets, to helping secure Food Allergy Awareness Week proclamations in your state.

Big and small, every step we take to educate and raise awareness in our communities gets us one step closer to ensuring safety and inclusion for those living with food allergies. These are a few of the great things we saw happen in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week:

Blue Ridge Elementary School Advocating

  1. Members of the Northeast Georgia Food Allergy Support Group gave a presentation about food allergies in every elementary school in their county. Dressed in teal, they reached more than 1000 children and educators!
  2. Extreme athlete Mike Monroe powered through 24 hours of continuous rowing, raising more than $37,000 for FARE during his Odyssey Against Food Allergies.
  3. First-grader Spencer made a video about how to use an epinephrine auto-injector. 
  4. Celebrities like Jerome Bettis, Julie Bowen, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Kenton Duty, Rhonda Adkins, and Chef Ming Tsai helped raise awareness.

Last week was a success, but we want to make sure that the momentum built does not end now. So here are a few ways you can take action to help raise awareness throughout the year:

  1. Share our “It’s Not a Joke” public service announcement with a school, scout troop, camp, or other community group. We heard from one food allergy mom whose daughter viewed the PSA with her classmates; it was also shown in every classroom in the school. Afterward her daughter felt that her classmates empathized with her and became more aware of the seriousness of food allergies. The mother said, “The PSA shown today at school made an impact on our entire family.” For tips on how to prevent and address food allergy bullying, visit our website: www.foodallergy.org/document.doc?id=192
  2. Join a FARE Walk for Food Allergy. Participating in or sponsoring a walk can be a great way for you to get involved and raise funds with other families in your community who are living with food allergies. To register please visit www.foodallergywalk.org or you can sponsor a walk by contacting your Regional Office.
  3. Expand and leverage your network. Do you know a politician, school administrator, celebrity, or business owner who could help spread the word, raise funds, or advocate for those living with food allergies? Talk to them! Has a support group not been established yet in your area? Start one!

We truly appreciate all of the extra efforts you made to raise awareness about food allergies last week, and we can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together! Please tell us about what you’re doing to increase awareness in the comments below.

Maintaining a Healthy Diet with Food Allergies: Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD

cherylpic littleWhen you have food allergies, it’s often a challenge to find foods that are safe, tasty, and nutritious all at the same time. Worrying about hidden allergens, reading labels multiple times, and the caution you have to take with every meal can make it difficult to find a balanced diet. As a dietician, Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD aims to help people, especially those with food allergies or celiac disease, find ways to live and eat well. She will be speaking on the topic at FARE’s Food Allergy Conference in Arlington, VA on May 18.

We asked Cheryl to tell us a bit about her session and her experience at our conferences in the past.

You’ve been to a conference before – what was your favorite part?

FARE always does a great job. I think we’re so very lucky to have Dr. Wood in our backyard, and it’s so gracious of him to present every year. I mean, how great is it to have a Q&A with one of the go-to allergy experts in the country? It’s quite a privilege to get the latest and greatest in the allergy world directly from the source. I’m also really looking forward to the session on managing emotional issues with food allergies because that is so critical, and it’s an area that often gets too little attention.

What will you be covering in your session?

We’ll be covering a range of topics, from nutritional potholes and how to avoid them to tips and tricks that help make life more wonderful. Obviously the first step is strictly avoiding the allergen, but the second step is supporting yourself or your child to ensure a balanced, nutritious, and varied diet.

What challenges do people with food allergies typically face from a nutritional standpoint?

Oh, that’s the hardest one to sum up briefly, because it totally depends on what the problematic food and the child’s age. Every allergy has its own nutritional impact, and of course, the more severe the allergy, the harder it is, especially for people who can only use foods from a dedicated allergen-free facility. Not surprisingly, research studies have shown that children with multiple allergies and/or milk protein allergies are much more likely to be underweight or malnourished.

Food allergies inevitably change the whole family’s relationship with food. Many toddlers are picky in the best of times. Not surprisingly, young children who have learned that food can lead to a trip to the ER are often much more reluctant to try new foods, and who can blame them? It adds an extra layer of hurdles for parents.

There’s still time to register for one of our upcoming conferences, being held in Arlington, VA (May 18); and Anaheim, CA (June 1). Register today on our website: www.foodallergy.org/conferences

Read more about Cheryl on her website www.harriswholehealth.com

Food Allergy Awareness Week 2013

fawwthumbFood Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) starts in just two days! Next week, May 12-18, provides the perfect opportunity to educate those in your community about the severity of this potentially life-threatening medical condition. Here are a few events and ways you can get involved!

  1. Educate: Hang up a Food Allergy Awareness Week Poster at your school, library, or workplace. Make a presentation to educate others about food allergies, or share some facts about food allergies on social media.
  2. Participate: We’ll have quite a few opportunities for you to participate in events and help raise awareness online. Make sure you like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter so you can take part!
  3. Show your support: Sign up a team for a FARE Walk for Food Allergy in your area, purchase a Food Allergy Awareness T-shirt, or become a member of FARE to show your support!

We look forward to celebrating FAAW with you, and be sure to stay tuned for a big announcement this week! For more resources and a full calendar of events, visit our website: http://www.foodallergy.org/food-allergy-awareness-week/activities

What are you doing for FAAW? We’d love to see what you’re up to! Post pictures on our Facebook page, use the hashtag #FoodAllergyWk on Twitter, leave a comment here, or email Anna Luke at aluke@foodallergy.org.