Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Story about a Child and Food Allergies

Just a quick story to balance the many difficult stories associated with food allergies and our children. I was giving a Healing with Food presentation at the Ashland, MA Farmers Market and was offering samples of Lacto-Fermented pickles donated by The Real Pickles Company. A dad was gently coaching his son to ask me if the samples contained...and then the boy quietly and sheepishly recited the list which sounded like the big 8 allergies.

I turned around to a member of my team and said "Food Allergies, let this boy read the ingredients". My team member motioned for him to come to the back of the booth and although the boy was hesitant, his dad came with him and they read the ingredients together and found he could indeed have a sample. It seems like such a simple thing but I know this was an important step in this boy's learning to take care of himself in a world that could make him very sick...or worse.

So many children have to be ultra-careful about what they put in their mouths. So many parents have to literally micromanage their children's coming and goings around food in schools, birthday parties, soccer games, etc. in order to avert disaster and simply keep them safe.

I have been on the receiving end of wait staff who say they understand my food allergies and then bring me dangerous food.
I have been on the receiving end of people who say "just taste a little...it won't hurt you".
An extended family member who is a nursing student said the eating gluten-free is a life style choice! Is that what they are teaching in nursing school?
And though I would not call it bullying, I have also been on the receiving end of someone saying I wasn't cool because I have to watch everything that goes into my mouth. 

These people were all unfortunately ignorant and need training in awareness and compassion. As more and more people are diagnosed with food sensitivities and anaphylactic allergies, we must support each other in these areas, looking for the opportunity to help where we can.

My new bake shop will have a big sign outside the entrance stating "Allergen-Free Facility. Please do not bring any food or drink into this kitchen".  When I have my bake shop launch party, I will keep my new facility safe by providing all the food and drink rather than have a pot luck (which is the norm for my friends).

Back to the shy boy learning to ask for what he needs to keep him safe. I was proud of my team for making this happen for him. I was proud of his father's coaching and support. I was proud that even though the boy was nervous about asking, nervous about coming into the booth, nervous about the whole thing, he stayed with it and empowered himself to keep himself safe.

Look for the opportunities in your life to support and educate others about food sensitivities and allergies. We need to grow a strong safety net for all of us!

Here are a couple of photos from the Healing with Food event:

A demo table full of pickles and jars ready to be filled.

Sarah offering samples to the crowd.

Thanks again to my team: my husband Allen, my friend Laurel,  and my assistant Sarah. It was a really great day!!

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