Monday, May 9, 2011

Food Allergy Awareness Week, May 8-14, 2011

by Kelley Lindberg

Welcome to Food Allergy Awareness Week!

It seems like everyone is raising awareness these days, about one cause or another. After a while, it can start to feel a little boring – gee, another week, another cause. Do we really need to be “aware” of all these things?

Well, yeah. I think we do.

When I was younger (at least a hundred years ago, it seems), no one knew much about anything. Food allergies? I didn’t know anyone who had them. Autism? Never heard of it. Heart disease in women? Nah – only men got heart attacks, right? Breast cancer? I didn’t know about it until my beloved grandmother suddenly got it and died, leaving me devastated. Disabilities? Why should we make businesses, homes, and retail stores accessible to people in wheelchairs – do they spend money, crave social activities, and want to enjoy life, too? Depression? That was something you were supposed to either snap out of or take Valium for, but it was all in your head anyway, so just stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Awareness. In the last twenty years, we’ve all become a lot more aware of a lot of things, and not just because we became grownups, either. We began to talk about things that had been taboo before. Individuals got tired of reinventing the wheel when their child or loved one was diagnosed with a scary condition, and they began to band together, to seek each other out, to build campaigns to teach the rest of the world what it is like be them. And we learned something… we learned that everyone is the same the world over, we all have challenges, and often it doesn’t take a lot of effort to understand each other and make the world a little easier for us all to live in together.

Food allergy awareness has blossomed in the last eleven years since my son was diagnosed. Back then, restaurants were clueless, teachers were scared and/or skeptical, and patients and their families felt isolated.

A decade later, through the tireless efforts of organizations like the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), Kids With Food Allergies, and the Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN) it’s already a new and more tolerant environment for my son. His school has implemented food allergy policies. Teammates on his sports teams have had allergies, too, so the coaches are clued in. Restaurants bring him special menus. There have been television shows, magazine and newspaper articles, and dozens of books produced to teach everyone about food allergies.

Awareness – just that, just being aware – has made the world a lot safer for my son and the other 12 million Americans who have food allergies. Sure, there are still dangers, still people who don’t “get it,” and still situations that put him at risk, but every year those dangers are being minimized by other people – friends, family, or total strangers – who understand how serious food allergies are and are willing to take an extra step or two to keep him safe.

So I’m thrilled to help celebrate Food Allergy Awareness Week, and I hope you’ll join me in helping to spread the word. It doesn’t take much:
  • Talk to someone about food allergies.
  • Give a short presentation to your kid’s class about allergies.
  • Read a food allergy book for your local library’s story time.
  • Ask a restaurant how they handle food allergies.
  • Donate allergen-free food to your local food bank (Sunbutter, WowButter, gluten-free pasta, Enjoy Life granola bars, etc., all make great donations).
  • Make a cash donation to UFAN or FAAN to help further education, advocacy, and research.
UFAN has a whole week’s worth of great ideas for celebrating FAAW, including signing up for the Food Allergy Walk in October, so check it out at Or go to FAAN’s website to see their ideas:

Whatever you do, no matter how small, know that you’re making a difference in someone’s life this week. Thank you!

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