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Like many families, our holiday traditions involve food, and lots of it! It seems that every holiday we prepare a smorgasbord of yummy sides, cookies, cakes, breads...you name it from so-and-so's famous recipe of all. the. allergens. It feels overwhelming to take on the daunting task of making our beloved traditional recipes safe, but we do it. What's one more stressor this time of year anyway?
We reach the end of the internet reading about substitutions, grocery shop at three stores to find all the right ingredients, put on our apron and hope for the best. Even with all of this preparation, sometimes it is not enough. We wonder where we went wrong, "All I changed was substituting the egg with applesauce, what happened?!" After spending hours trying to save Christmas and show everyone that Gramma's Famous Chocolate Pie tradition can safely continue, we end up with a bad taste in our mouth; not just from the pie, but for the holiday altogether. On top of that, someone has the nerve to ask, "How can we have Christmas without Gramma's Chocolate Pie?!" This scenario will bring you to tears, my friends. 
So let's challenge ourselves this holiday season...
Let's challenge ourselves to think about traditions differently. Yes, that chocolate pie was heavenly and smelled like Christmas to my family. After a good cry over my failed, allergy-safe pie, I remembered why I loved her pie so much to begin with. That chocolate pie meant watching Gramma in the kitchen where she talked to me while she baked. It meant Gramma winking and grinning as she "tested it" to make sure it was just right. It meant the clatter of the "good" dishes as slices were served. It meant sitting around with family just a little longer before we had to head back home. That dessert was not the tradition; those feelings, they were the tradition.
When I realized the feeling is what made the tradition wonderful, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I can create those feelings and connect with my family in other ways during the holidays. I can give them special attention through a shared activity like baking (even if it's something other than Gramma's pie, they'll never know, they've never eaten it!). I can give them memories of working together in the kitchen to prepare our special meal. We can laugh and cut up while doing something fun. The feelings are what traditions are made of and what they will pass down to their children one day. 
Let's challenge ourselves to focus on how our holidays feel this year. Allow ourselves to let go of how the holiday plans are executed, and embrace why the plans were made in the first place. Allow ourselves permission to make changes to the menu and traditions (gasp!), and not feel guilty or grieve too long. Allow ourselves whatever is needed to enjoy and participate in how the holidays feel. Then cherish the memories of our new traditions for a lifetime. 
Happy Holidays...from our FAAMily, to yours!
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by Rebekah W.
I was five months old when I started having eczema outbreaks on my skin. My parents and doctors tried to figure out what was causing it. My little hands scratched and tore up my skin. I even wore gloves or long socks on my hands to keep from scratching. By the time I was about two years old, we were able to get allergy testing done. At first, the allergist thought it was just eggs but by the time I was five I was allergic to all eight of the major food allergens, known as the Top 8 - milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
I was already sensitive to the looks I got because of my eczema. My skin looked red and raw all over and I could not stop itching. But when I talked about my allergies, I remember people staring at me again. This time for a different reason.
What do you eat?
But can't you drink milk? 
You must be starving!
I was also really shy because of this. I did not want to talk to anyone about myself when all they did was ask me questions. I had good days and bad days. I was smaller than everyone else, missed a lot of school and spoke quietly. I had a boy in kindergarten say my skin was dirty and kids just didn't understand why I could or couldn't eat something they could. But I also made friends who did not judge me by my allergies and skin. They didn't look at me like I was weird or like something was wrong with me. At school, I met other kids who had allergies too. I didn't feel so alone. Some even helped me stay away from foods they knew I could react to.  

About three years ago, I went to a hospital to get more allergy testing. They did both skin and blood tests. While I was there, I was so happy to find out that I had outgrown my soy and wheat allergies. My food options opened up! During my stay, I met several kids who had food allergies like me, and some had it even worse than I did. I made a friend from Arizona who had trouble with her stomach due to her food allergies. She was always sick. Another little boy from Chicago had allergies that caused his skin to react painfully. He cried a lot. 

Meeting other kids with allergies helped me a lot. It made me see how important those with allergies are to each other. Talking to the kids, our doctors, and even our parents taught me that I want to help as many people as I can.
Now I know that my message is important and I teach other people about allergies through my social media. I can teach those who don't know about it. I can show others with allergies that what they feel, I have also felt. My allergies and eczema do not make me who I am but they have shown me that I can take the bad and make it into something good. I am no longer afraid of the looks and the questions because I now use them now to raise awareness.
About the Author: Rebekah is 12 years old and manages multiple food allergies. Thank you, Rebekah, for being a guest author on Food for Thought and sharing your story with us! You're a great example of using your challenges for good and helping others! 
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If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how to "do the Teal Pumpkin Project", I would be rich! I am excited to share with you how easy and affordable it is to include ALL children on Halloween.
Started in Tennessee...
Food allergy mom and director of the Food Allergy Community of East TN, Becky Basalone, started the Teal Pumpkin Project in the fall of 2012. She wanted all children to enjoy trick-or-treating in her Knoxville community and came up with the idea to paint pumpkins teal, the color for food allergy awareness, and display on Halloween to let the community know you have non-food items for lil' goblins who have food allergies. Genius! Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) was so impressed they took it over as a national campaign.
Why it matters...
I have been asked why the Teal Pumpkin Project is needed, "Why can't you just pick out what your child can't have?" Unfortunately, that does not work for everyone. Food allergies and reactions vary greatly and families manage them based on their specific circumstances.
  • Some families trick-or-treat and pick out the candy that is not safe. However, this can be difficult when individually wrapped candies do not include ingredient labels.
  • Some children are allergic to multiple foods and safe options may be even more limited.
  • Some children have had reactions simply by touching their allergens. We have all opened a bag of bulk candy only to see torn wrappers or some that are not sealed completely. Some parents fear this may allow allergens to touch the "safe candy" in the bowl. 
  • Some families do not see the risk being greater than the reward. For families with younger children especially, who ALWAYS have their hands in their mouths, a holiday like Halloween produces so much anxiety it is not worth the trouble.  
  • Some children do not have food allergies yet cannot eat candy. A food-centered holiday is also difficult for children with feeding tubes, certain sensory challenges, and diabetes.
Every parent wants their child to enjoy life and participate in fun, holiday traditions, which is why the Teal Pumpkin Project is important to us.
Now on to the how...
Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project is as easy as 1-2-3!
1.    Buy a pumpkin and paint it teal, or buy a teal pumpkin from Michael's or CVS, and display it for your neighborhood to see.
2.    Purchase non-food treats and place them in a bowl separate from your candy. You can find novelty toys everywhere - order online or look on the party favor and Halloween aisles of your local stores.
3.    Print a sign for your door or window that explains the Teal Pumpkin Project and enjoy! 
Find fun printables and social media graphics online. New this year - "Teal Pumpkin Boo" your neighbor!
Still on the fence?
If you are still on the fence, let me answer other concerns I have heard...

Concern: "But it costs so much more than candy, I can't afford to do it."
Solution: This is not true! A bulk bag of Halloween candy can cost $20-$30. A bulk bag of glow sticks costs $10. You can purchase inexpensive glow sticks, bead necklaces, stickers, mini bubbles, spider rings, fangs and witch fingers. Some of my personal favorites are purchased online at Oriental Trading Company and at my local Dollar Tree. Another great food allergy organization, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT), partnered with Wal-Mart this year for even more affordable options. Just look for FAACT's teal ghost logo in the Halloween department! You can also find fun options on the party favor aisles.

Concern: "How do I know which goblins to give toys to?"
Solution: You will know. They will look for teal pumpkins and will be so excited to see one that they will say something to you. Or they may hug you, either way, you will know. I like to tape the sign I printed to the bowl of non-food goodies to make it more obvious. You can ask who needs a teal pumpkin treat and when you hear an "I do!" behind that cute Iron Man mask, you will know that little goblin needs a toy instead. You can add your address to the Teal Pumpkin Project participation map, which many families use to find teal pumpkins in their neighborhoods.

Concern: "I don't have many trick-or-treaters so I don't want to spend money on both candy and toys."
Solution: Try just toys then! We offered both toys and candy in the past and allowed every child to choose, we had a lot of candy left over and no leftover toys. Even teenagers chose bubbles! Since then, we only offer toys. The good part is you can save any leftovers you may have.
I encourage you to try it and I think you will find that you enjoy it more than the children do. And they may not tell you at that moment, but that teal pumpkin gives you Halloween Hero status! 
Updated from the original post. The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT® and the Teal Pumpkin Project® logo are registered trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
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by Kelley Barnett
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how to "do the Teal Pumpkin Project", I would be rich! I am excited to share with you how easy and affordable it is to include all children on Halloween.
Started in Tennessee...
Food allergy mom and director of the Food Allergy Community of East TN, Becky Basalone, started the Teal Pumpkin Project in the fall of 2012. She wanted all children to enjoy trick-or-treating in her Knoxville community and came up with the idea to paint pumpkins teal, the color for food allergy awareness, and display on Halloween to let the community know you have non-food items for lil' goblins who have food allergies. Genius! Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) was so impressed they took it over as a national campaign.
Why it matters...
I have been asked why the Teal Pumpkin Project is needed, "Why can't you just pick out what your child can't have?" Unfortunately, that does not work for everyone. Food allergies and reactions vary greatly and families manage them based on their specific circumstances.
  • Some families trick-or-treat and pick out the candy that is not safe. However, this can be difficult when individually wrapped candies do not include ingredient labels.
  • Some children are allergic to multiple foods and safe options may be even more limited.
  • Some children have had reactions simply by touching their allergens. We have all opened a bag of bulk candy only to see torn wrappers or some that are not sealed completely. Some parents fear this may allow allergens to touch the "safe candy" in the bowl. 
  • Some families do not see the risk being greater than the reward. For families with younger children especially, who ALWAYS have their hands in their mouths, a holiday like Halloween produces so much anxiety it is not worth the trouble.  
  • Some children do not have food allergies yet cannot eat candy. A food-centered holiday is also difficult for children with feeding tubes, certain sensory challenges, and diabetes.
Every parent wants their child to enjoy life and participate in fun, holiday traditions, which is why the Teal Pumpkin Project is important to us.
Now on to the how...
Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project is as easy as 1-2-3!
Still on the fence?
1.    Buy a pumpkin and paint it teal, or buy a teal pumpkin from Michael's or CVS, and display it for your neighborhood to see.
2.    Purchase non-food treats and place them in a bowl separate from your candy. You can find novelty toys everywhere - order online or look on the party favor and Halloween aisles of your local stores.
3.    Print a sign for your door or window that explains the Teal Pumpkin Project and enjoy! You will also find other printables and social media graphics on the website. You can even add your address to the Teal Pumpkin Project participation map!
If you are still on the fence, let me answer other concerns I have heard...

Concern: "But it costs so much more than candy, I can't afford to do it."
Solution: This is not true! A bulk bag of Halloween candy can cost $20-$30. A bulk bag of glow sticks costs $10. You can purchase inexpensive glow sticks, bead necklaces, stickers, mini bubbles, spider rings, fangs and witch fingers. Some of my personal favorites are purchased online at Oriental Trading Companyat my local Dollar Tree, and Wal-Mart (remember to look on the party favor AND Halloween aisles). 

Concern: "How do I know which goblins to give toys to?"
Solution: You will know. They will look for teal pumpkins and be so excited to see one that they will say something to you. Or they may hug you, either way, you will know. I like to tape the sign I printed to the bowl of non-food goodies to make it more obvious. You can also ask who needs a teal pumpkin treat and when you hear an "I do!" behind that cute Iron Man mask, you will know that little goblin needs a toy instead.

Concern: "I don't have many trick-or-treaters so I don't want to spend money on both candy and toys."
Solution: Try just toys then! We offered both toys and candy in the past and allowed every child to choose, we had a lot of candy left over and no leftover toys. Even teenagers chose bubbles! Since then, we only offer toys. The best part is I buy them after Halloween on clearance.
I encourage you to try it and I think you will find that you enjoy it more than the children do. And they may not tell you at that moment, but that teal pumpkin gives you Halloween Hero status! 
Updated from the original post. The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT® and the Teal Pumpkin Project® logo are registered trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
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Q:
Hi, my 23 month old son was diagnosed with anaphylaxis to peanuts at 21 months along with an allergy to cat and dog dander. With all the new research coming out lately about allergies I would like to know if it is possible to reverse allergies, specifically his peanut allergy, and if so what steps would we take? Thank you for taking the time to respond.
A:
Thank you for your excellent question.
As of now, there is no known “cure” for food allergies. Currently, the only form of treatment available that is being studied is allergen-specific immunotherapy.  This is where the allergic patient is exposed to the allergen in some form (e.g. swallowed, under the tongue, or through the skin via a patch) over time.  Typically the allergen is given initially in very small quantities and increased over time (not the case with the patch). This is also known as desensitization and utilizes the same concept as allergy shots.  The idea is that slow exposure over time, perhaps using various routes, will switch the patient’s immune response to that allergen.
Currently, there is no FDA-approved form of this treatment.  However, there are many ongoing studies of various forms of immunotherapy for food allergies, with the hopes that one day we will have approved, effective treatments for food allergies.

To the best of our knowledge to date, these treatments are effective in desensitizing the patient to the allergen, or as you state, reversing the allergy.  Studies of most forms of food-immunotherapy suggest that it works in the majority of patients as long as they can tolerate the treatment (many patients have had side effects to the treatment such as allergic reactions or stomach problems that do not allow them to continue the treatment).  This means that as long as the patient continues to be exposed to the allergen on a regular basis, they can tolerate more of the allergen than before the treatments started.  However, this does not necessarily mean the allergy is “cured”.  A few studies have shown that some patients continued to be desensitized to the allergen even months after stopping the therapy.  However, this has only been shown in some patients and should not (at least at this time) be considered the expected result of immunotherapy.

As mentioned, there are ongoing studies around the world examining these treatments to various foods (peanut being the most frequently studied).  If you are interested in learning more about these studies, I recommend visiting ClinicalTrials, which is a website sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and should list all ongoing studies, searchable by condition, if they are enrolling subjects, and sites of enrollment.

​There are some private practices that offer this treatment.  To my knowledge, there are not any in the Memphis area.  Whether this service should be offered through a non-research protocol, at a regular allergist’s office has been debated at the national stage with strong feelings on both sides.  If this is an interest of yours, I unfortunately cannot give any recommendations regarding this. 
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by Janette Kennedy, MAEd
Anxiety permeated the principal’s demeanor as she invited us into the conference room. The past months had been filled with increasingly contentious emails and meetings as we tried to develop a plan to ensure that my daughter would be both safe and included at school. You see, she has life-threatening allergies to multiple foods and there are things she needs to survive that other children, and even those with food allergies, may not need. Obviously, we had let the process devolve to this moment. Here we were though, back at the table, and we learned a great deal in the process.
Communication, planning, and preparation is the only way for my daughter to be able to safely participate in a world that contains her allergens nearly everywhere we go. Our goal was to have the necessary precautions and preparedness in place so that she and her teachers could focus their attention on learning and growth.
           
To achieve this, we developed a 504 plan with the school: a legal document based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that includes accommodations and identifies who is responsible, ensuring that each student with a disability has “their educational needs met to the same degree as students without disabilities” and “equal opportunity to participate in the (school’s) program” as described in Questions and Answers on the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 for Students with Disabilities Attending Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.
           

The plan is designed by a team, including people who know the school’s programs and people who know the student, especially the parents. At its heart, it is an individualized plan addressing a specific student’s unique disability needs. It is not the forum to create policy for the entire school.
Benefits
For us, the benefits of having a 504 plan have been:
  • formalizing communication,
  • enabling the whole team to consider where a student with a food allergy might experience unacceptable levels of risk and how to address that,
  • providing a formal document of accommodations that all school programs need to comply with, including most contracted out transportation and extra-curricular activities, or any organization that receives material support from the school, like the Parent Teacher Association (PTA),
  • increasing consistency of management strategies, even when school policies change,
  • easing transfer between schools,
  • and providing a forum for the team to find solutions to ensure that accommodations are not unnecessarily restrictive or excluding.

Even with a 504 plan, the crucial part of safety and inclusion in school is to keep the communication with your child’s school as open and clear as possible. This may mean taking steps to re-open lines of communication when things have gotten contentious.
Tips for Solution-Focused Communication
Although I have often learned the hard way, I gained a few tips on preventing breakdowns in communication and rebuilding communications when things have gotten contentious:
  1. Volunteer at the school so you can build relationships apart from the issue of food allergies.
  2. Be proactive with communication. Check in with teachers at the beginning of the year and throughout the year to ensure that you have similar understandings. Teachers get bogged down in a lot of details and we would all rather communicate about upcoming solutions rather than dealing with past mistakes. One good strategy is to send an email to check in on plans for upcoming special events.
  3. Stay solution-focused, even when something has happened not in compliance with the 504 plan’s accommodations. Sure it needs to be documented in case a pattern develops, but communication is more easily built on helping the school comply than if they fear you are trying to catch them in a misstep.
  4. Help your school understand the law by sharing official documents with them. Print out the Office of Civil Rights policy guides and other relevant policies and laws for your state. Highlight specific phrasing that is relevant. In our experience, many administrators have very little training on 504 plans specifically. Encourage them to do research on the documents too. You want them to learn about your child’s rights.
  5. Practice phrasing that is assertive, but matter of fact and even-keeled ahead of time. It is often hard to think of phrasing in the moment that stands your ground without escalating the situation needlessly. Questions that reference official documents, the laws, or build on previous agreements are a good place to start.
  6. Bring someone with you to the meeting. Having an extra person by your side can really help, especially if you have prepared together ahead of time. There are also non-profits that provide advocacy assistance, like Support & Training for Exceptional Parents (STEP), Inc. and the Food Allergy Alliance of the Mid-South, and they can help you find the resources you need for the process go more smoothly.
  7. Communicate with your school’s 504 coordinator about the process and eligibility, rather than your doctor or the school nurse. Nurses and doctors have experience with medical questions, but a 504 plan is a process centered on equal access law, civil rights, and the school programs.
  8. Have your doctor write a letter, or draft one that he or she is comfortable signing. This letter should include the diagnosis and instructions for management. Keep these instructions broad, like needing to have access to epinephrine at all times. This way the school and the team can determine the best way to achieve your doctor’s instructions given the unique environment and logistics of the school. It also keeps the doctor from having to negotiate the details of the plan with the school.
  9. Write a parent statement and consider sharing it, along with the doctor’s letter ahead of time. Include a brief history of the most severe and surprising reactions, the usual symptoms, and the things you do to keep your child safe. Prepare yourself emotionally to talk about your child’s reactions in a way that conveys the seriousness of them directly. As parents, we sometimes have so many emotions surrounding these traumatic experiences, that this is really hard to do. Practice your wording ahead of time so that you make sure you convey it accurately and are prepared to continue the conversation afterwards.
  10. Document and keep everything. It has been helpful to go back to a document, and realize that the teacher and I just had different understanding of the same phrasing. Also, if someone tells you something verbally, send them an email to document the conversation, and to confirm that you understood it correctly. This documentation will also be vital if the situation ever requires outside resolution.
  11. Know and respect your limits. Do not agree to making cupcakes for every birthday or running up to the school to check labels at the last minute every time there is a surprise treat, unless you really want to and can. (Check out page 31 of the Parent and Educator Resource Guide for more on this issue of requiring parent assistance to make opportunities accessible.)
           
In all of this, you absolutely must take extra care of your mental and emotional health. Really, it might actually take zen master levels of self-control at points. Precisely because you are advocating for your child’s survival and long-term development though, it is worth it to take the time to step back, breathe, and seek out the support you need. If things fall apart, that is okay too. You take a break, make adjustments, find some common ground, and go back in and find a way forward. That’s always easier said than done, but it can be done.
For a list of helpful resources about the 504 process and to help plan for upcoming meetings, visit FAAM's Back-to-School Resources.
About the Author: With a background in special education and mother of kids with food allergies, Janette has navigated the food allergy world and 504 process in New York, Virginia, and Tennessee. She is a recent graduate of the Volunteer Advocacy Project, and is excited to share the many insights gained from her missteps as well as successes. She is also an MFA candidate in Writing. FAAM thanks Janette for answering questions as our "504 mentor" and contributing to Food for Thought and list of resources for 504 plans.
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​After trying homemade granola, I rarely reach for store-bought kinds. A little time in the kitchen is completely worth it for a simple-to-store and easy-to-grab snack or addition to a morning yogurt parfait. This recipe makes a batch large enough to share with friends or package and give as gifts. 
​With the sweetness of the coconut and honey, the crunch of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and the chewiness of dried fruit and oats, this granola recipe is sure to become a staple in your family’s pantry. My son especially loves the bites with chocolate chips…and who am I kidding? I do too!

There is something to be said for the peace of mind you are serving by making your own snack suited to your allergies. Use this recipe as a base, and get creative with your own combinations of seeds, fruits, and other mix-ins. Check out Gerbs
 for a wide selection of allergy friendly ingredients. What is your favorite granola ingredient?

Sweet & Seedy Homemade Granola
Yield: about 14 cups
 
INGREDIENTS
     2/3 cup sunflower seeds
     2/3 cup pumpkin seeds
     2 cups shredded coconut* (sweetened or unsweetened)
     18 oz. container (6.5 cups) old fashioned rolled oats
     6 tbsp. canola oil
     ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
     ¾ tsp. salt
     ¼ cup ground flaxseed (optional)
     12 oz. bottle (1 cup) honey
     1 cup dried cherries**
     1 cup dried cranberries**
     9 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

* If you are allergic to coconut, try a puffed rice cereal instead or use more seeds and fruit. 
**If you prefer other dried fruits, substitute a total of 2 cups of your choice.
 
DIRECTIONS
  • Preheat oven to 325˚F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.
  • Lightly toast sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a small skillet or toaster oven.
  • Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the coconut to the pan in an even layer and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and toasted. Transfer to a large bowl and wipe out the pan.  
  • Return the pan to the heat and add the oats and canola oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats are lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the oat mixture to the large bowl with the coconut/seed mixture and stir in the ground flaxseed (optional, but an easy way to add fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids), cinnamon, and salt.  Add honey and mix well. Stir in the dried cherries, cranberries, and chocolate chips.  
  • Spread out onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake, stirring every few minutes, until the granola is light golden brown, about 17-20 minutes.
  • Let cool to room temperature.  Break the dried and cooled granola into small clusters and store in an airtight container.
*Gerbs' website states they are free of the Top 12 recognized allergens. They shared over the phone that they use coconut oil in their banana chips and any banana mixes. Not an affiliate link.
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by Nubian Simmons
The following are my life experiences and my opinions. They are not intended to offend or offer medical advice.
 
1. What are you allergic to, and when were you diagnosed? 
I am allergic to milk (age 15) and wheat (age 34). I can remember being 6 or 7 and always at the doctor’s office getting tested. I do not know how prevalent food allergies were 30 years ago, but my mom, a retired nurse, was determined to figure it out. Once we realized it was the milk, she searched to find anything I could eat or drink that would not cause a reaction.
As far as the wheat goes, I had itchy, scaly eczema for as long as I could remember. I noticed rashes on my face that developed after eating a sandwich or other foods that contained wheat. My family members had it too.  A few years ago, I stopped eating wheat products because the rashes happened more frequently. Not only did the rashes stop, but my eczema went away also.
 
I went to a restaurant and ordered a seafood salad. I had what is called a first indicator response. The inside of my ear felt funny-it sounded like I had water in my ear. My throat became itchy, and it was getting very tough to breathe. My whole face broke out into scabby, painful hives. I treated the reaction according to my emergency care plan. The seafood salad used imitation crab meat, which is made from wheat starch. Had the company listed that it contained wheat, I would not have eaten it.  I look back at the rashes I had when I was younger and realize I had sensitivity to wheat but never had such a violent reaction as I did when I ate the salad.
 
2. What did your parents do that helped you learn to manage your own allergies?
My mom really tried to find substitutes for me. It was still tough because my siblings got to eat the “normal” foods.  Her love and support meant everything. Even though she was not going through everything I was going through, just knowing she was there to support me meant the world to me.
 
3. What challenges do you face today as an adult with food allergies?
A few challenges today as an adult are socializing and dating.
 
Socializing:
Every social invitation I receive involves some type of food. As accommodating as people try to be (and they really, really make considerable effort), it is tough to explain all the “also known as” foods, and how I do not buy things that have been “processed in a facility with,” or how they cannot place the foods close to any wheat or milk products on the table. If I do chance it, I always wear long sleeves and bring my own food. It is easier at times to not go because people do not understand the severity.
 
Dating:
In my experience, the person you are dating HAS to change their lifestyle to date you. I am talking about a complete elimination of those foods from their diet, because it is harmful for me. You are at the mercy of that person’s eating decisions. What if they truly forget? I am the wheat and milk police – “So what did you eat today? Did anyone bring doughnuts into the office? Did you have any milk in that coffee?”
 
4. What positive things have happened because of your food allergies? 
I have an acute awareness when it comes to understanding my body’s language. I have done research on food allergies and have learned the importance of nutrition and holistic healing. I learned how our food supply is processed. I have learned to be thankful for my allergies; they protect me from the “experiments” by the food industry. 
 
5. What is the biggest piece of advice you have for anyone managing food allergies, regardless of age?
Educate yourself. Listen to your body. YOU are the ONLY expert on your body. Read labels, and learn the “also known as” names of the foods you are allergic to, or how it was processed, and if there was any possibility of cross contamination. Become very diligent and disciplined.  If you have a reaction to something, eliminate the food. 
 
I would also like to tell anyone managing food allergies, that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! I cannot stress this enough! Your body is not dysfunctional. You are not weird (or any other name people use to describe us).
 
6. You’ve been a member of FARE for years and became a member of FAAM as soon as you moved to Memphis. Why is being active in your food allergy community important to you?
Being active is important for a number of reasons: Having food allergies is socially isolating, so being able to hangout with others who understand is invaluable; to find out what is going on in our community; and to learn about different recipes from others. Once you get this food allergy thing down, you can make some amazing dishes!
 
7. What motivated you to start The Pink Bakery? 
I was tired of being excluded from dessert. The box mixes were not to my standard in texture or taste. I learned how to bake with gluten free flours from scratch and without eggs and milk. Those three are the holy trinity in desserts. I learned about each ingredient’s structure and the role it played in the recipe. Five years into my research and development, I have three dessert options; six if you include the mixes. After a lot of research, feedback, and hard work, I am so proud of what I made. I am most proud of the fact that we – the food allergy community – no longer have to settle for subpar desserts.
 
My desserts are made using only organic, non-GMO, gluten free, fair trade, and responsibly sourced ingredients. It was never a dream of mine to become a baker or have a bakery. The “need” in the community helped me decide to make this available to others. 
The Pink Bakery is Tennessee's first big 8 allergen free bakery.
 
The “why” that pushes me is the thought of a parent of a child with food allergies whose birthday is coming up, and they are frantically trying to make a birthday cake, and they are unable to, or what they do make is not edible. That thought saddens me.
 
8. You state your products are free of the top 8 allergens; tell us more about what that means.
The Pink Bakery’s desserts are free of the Big 8 food allergens: eggs, finfish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. They are baked and prepared in a dedicated kitchen free from those Big 8 foods. I understand cross contamination, and I am a Certified Professional Food Manager. We have been inspected by the State of Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture and passed with flying colors! I am only allergic to 2 of the Big 8 food allergens, but because I know what it feels like to be excluded, I eliminated those other six foods. They are naturally vegan. With my mixes, all you add are water and oil.
 
9. Where can we buy/order these delicious desserts?
You have a few options when it comes to purchasing our desserts. I am at the Overton Park Farmers Market every Thursday, 3pm- 7pm. We offer three dessert options: individual Mama’s Favorite® Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with White Chocolate Peppermint Frosting, individual Not So Plain Jane® Lemonade Frosted Sugar Cookies, and individual No Frownie Brownies®. Each of our treats are wrapped and sealed to prevent any cross contamination. You can also .
 
Every Tunesday (Tuesday) we play a game on Facebook and Instagram where 2 lucky participants can win a free dessert option by guessing the “tune” I am humming. They can pick up their “dessert prize” at the Overton Park Farmers Market on Thursdays (3pm-7pm). Follow us to play along!
About the Author: FAAM is thankful to have Nubian as an active member and excited that she shared her experiences as an adult with food allergies with us. The Pink Bakery is a family affair as Nubian and her siblings, who also have a huge heart for those with food allergies, bake together.
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If you do not live with the daily responsibility of managing food allergies, Food Allergy Awareness Week may not seem like a big deal. It is for the food allergy community because it provides a special opportunity to highlight facts to the public with the hope of educating and increasing empathy for a subject that many know little about until it becomes a part of their personal lives.
Food allergy awareness matters because...
  • The 15 million Americans diagnosed with food allergy matter
  • Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER
  • There is no known cause or cure for food allergy and the number of people with the disease is growing
  • Reactions can range from a mild response to anaphylaxis (a severe and potentially deadly reaction)
  • About 1/3 of children with food allergies report being bullied because of their allergies, by other children as well as adults charged with their care
  • Inclusion matters
Source: FARE
As we educate ourselves about food allergy, we are not only better able to assist an allergic person during a reaction; we are better equipped to include them in daily living. See, for an allergic person, sometimes the worst part about having a food allergy is not the fear of a reaction. For some, the most difficult part of the diagnosis is being excluded - from the birthday party, family gathering, school field trip, work luncheon, church dinner, class project, the list is endless. Some of us are quick to exclude an allergic person out of fear, out of not knowing how to keep them safe or not knowing how to respond to a reaction.
​Awareness matters to minimize your fears. You CAN learn how to prepare food in a way that minimizes cross-contact. You CAN learn how to make substitutions in a recipe. You CAN learn how to recognize symptoms of a reaction, read an emergency care plan and use an epinephrine auto-injector. You CAN learn how to safely include an allergic individual as an active participant, without leaving them as an observer.
Awareness matters because the allergic person's safety and quality of life matter.
FAAM raises awareness throughout the year but on this 20th Anniversary of Food Allergy Awareness Week - May 14-20, 2017, we are glad to celebrate in special ways. 
  • We appreciate the local support and recognition from the governor and county mayor. They signed proclamations recognizing Food Allergy Awareness Week in Tennessee and Shelby County. 
  • ​​My friend "Melanie" and I visited with a great group of preschoolers for a lesson in food allergy. With approximately 1 in 13 children diagnosed with a food allergy, they are likely to have a friend with allergies. They learned to be a pal by washing hands, not sharing food, and telling an adult if their friend feels sick. We also read the Dairy-Free Dino-licious Dig and donated the book to the library.
  • ​It was really exciting to see the Capitol "turn teal" for the first time. Tennessee joined other sites worldwide to raise food allergy awareness.
This matters because it starts our conversation.
Let's continue it! Educate yourself about food allergy:​You can contact FAAM for an educational presentation or with questions. We also encourage Mid-South individuals and families who manage food allergies, as well as medical professionals and community members interested in advocating for food allergies, to join the FAAM!
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Food Allergy Awareness Week's 20th Anniversary is next week, May 14-20, 2017. This is the perfect time to share food allergy facts with friends and family on social media, print handouts for teachers and administrators at school, and raise awareness at your community center or place of worship. It is also a great time to celebrate YOU - the young adult managing food allergies at college, the parent or teacher of an allergic child, the grandparent caring for an allergic grandbaby. Food allergies may be challenging at times, but you are doing a great job managing them and living a full life! Go ahead, take a moment to pat yourself on the back! 

​FAAM wants to pat you on the back too with 2 giveaways thanks to the wonderful prizes donated from our very kind food allergy community!  
The first prize includes:
  • FAAM water bottle insulator & pen
The second prize includes:
To enter, help us spread the word about FAAM so we can support and educate even more people in the Mid-South. To be entered in the drawing:
  1. You must be a member so Join the FAAM* to stay in touch with our local food allergy community!​
  2. Let us know which 2 things you shared from the list below​ in a comment on this post. You can do as many as you want for extra entries!​
Entry list:
Comment on this post, let us know how you shared FAAM and your name will be entered in the drawing that many times. ​​
Entries are accepted through May 21, 2017 and winners will be announced by May 27, 2017. Winner must claim prize in person in Memphis, TN.
*You are welcome to join FAAM if you live in the MidSouth and have food allergies; a family member has food allergies; you care for someone with food allergies, such as a teacher, babysitter, etc.; or you are a doctor, nurse, EMT or other member of our medical community.
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