Monday, May 7, 2012

Celebrate Food Allergy Awareness Week

by Kelley Lindberg

Next week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, from May 13 – 19, 2012. It’s a great time to help educate everyone you meet about the seriousness of food allergies. It’s also a great time to appreciate how much awareness the food allergy community has managed to spread over the last fourteen years, since the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) created the very first Food Allergy Awareness Week in 1998.

When my son was born (in that same year, in fact), I was oblivious about food allergies. A year and a half later, I was painfully yanked into the food allergy world after my son’s first encounters with peanut butter left him with rashes and a hoarse voice. Fortunately, I found a friend whose son was also newly diagnosed with food allergies. Then we both discovered FAAN. Together, my friend and I began the long process of educating ourselves, and continuing to educate ourselves as new information becomes available.

There wasn’t much help back then. Restaurants were clueless, schools were barely aware, and resources were slim.

Now, just fourteen years later, restaurants offer food-allergy menus, schools are beginning to adopt written policies, and FAAN has been joined by a host of other food-allergy resources online, including our very own Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN), which began 5 years ago. There are cookbooks, and websites, and support groups, and an entire community that I am so very grateful for.

So, if you have a minute, think about ways you can celebrate Food Allergy Awareness Week and the awareness we’ve all had a hand in spreading. Can you do a storytime at your library, and read a children’s book about food allergies? (There are a lot of them out there now.) Can you speak to your child’s class about food allergies? Maybe you can donate some jars of Sunbutter to the local food bank, or send a quick note to the manager of your favorite grocery store, thanking them for carrying specific brands or items that are safe for your food-allergic family member.

The tiniest efforts can reap huge rewards down the road. Just look what we’ve done in fourteen years.

And don’t forget to register for UFAN’s Day of Play at the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum on Tuesday, May 14 from 4 – 6 pm, to help create an artpiece to be displayed at the new Sunflower Market Downtown. But hurry! You have to register and buy your discount tickets for this fun event by May 10. Go to the UFAN website for details.

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