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The Food Allergy Alliance of the Mid-South (FAAM) hosted its first virtual 5K fundraiser, June 10-16, 2018. FAAM is 100% volunteer-run. We have no employees; our board, officers, presenters and volunteers all work from their hearts. We are grateful those hearts are HUGE and have the capacity to love and support our food allergy community the way they do. The work we do requires funding, and while we receive grants, they do not cover everything we do. That's where our wonderful community, and people in communities across 7 states, chose to give us support that was overwhelmingly wonderful. I could go on and on about how grateful I am for each of you who sponsored, donated, participated, and supported us through this fundraiser, but no words can accurately convey that kind of gratitude.
THANK YOU for going the extra mile for food allergy awareness and allowing us to continue our work in the Mid-South! Please know you made a HUGE difference right here at home and we will continue to feel your love and support throughout the next year as we host food-free events, train educators, educate the public, and support and advocate for our local food allergy community.
A few of our FAAM Virtual 5K 2018 finishers, human and canine, are featured in our collage! We had many participants who participated in and completed their very first 5K.

We are proud of all of our participants and thank you for going the extra mile! 
We are grateful for the generosity of our sponsors. FAAM is a community organization and having the backing and support of our community is important in what we are able to accomplish for the Mid-South.
​THANK YOU!
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by Janette Kennedy, MAEd
I painted this picture when I was expecting my daughter. There are cute little footprints coming out of the river, and my hope of seeing her summit her dreams. Most of the picture, though, is the cover of the jungle: the insects and upturned leaves that hide the unknown that she will travel through in this life. 

As parents, one of our most important jobs is preparing our kids to navigate a world we can’t always see, and sometimes, one that we struggle ourselves to make sense of. Already, her world is so different than mine.
She has life-threatening allergies. I often say food-induced anaphylaxis to really make the point that one trace of one of her allergens could mean a fatal reaction. 

How do I equip her to live in a world where food that is healthy for most, could kill her? How do I help her deal with the social implications of feeling anxious when an impromptu teen pizza night comes up? How do I help her focus on the spontaneous and independent decision-making that is a necessary part of growing up? 

The life of someone with food allergies always involves some risk. It’s a matter of managing that risk and being prepared when all else fails. It’s a world where you practice avoidance and always have epinephrine on hand, because all it takes is one mistake. For all the exciting research out there, there is no cure yet. 

I knew I needed to face the depths of that jungle, the scary parts, because she is getting older. Teens and young adults with food allergies are at highest risk of fatal reactions for a number of physiological, social, and developmental reasons, even if they have never had to avoid “may contain” or only had mild reactions before. 
​I am a FAAM Advocate and helped create and co-lead WITT-We’re In This Together with Kelley Barnett, FAAM's President. WITT is a group for parents and tweens to learn about and discuss: researching safe foods, talking to restaurant managers and activity organizers, teaching family and friends how to use epinephrine, and being able to recognize, ask for help, and use epinephrine in the midst of a life threatening reaction. 

You want to know what scares me the most? When I was an adolescent and things got confusing, too socially complicated, or I felt self-conscious, I went off on my own. I got quiet. It would all be ok if I just toughed it out. These very normal coping strategies though, will put my daughter at even more risk if they are what she learns to rely on. Her jungle really is very different from mine.

Meeting with other tweens and parents in WITT enabled her to connect with other kids who were in that jungle. It helped me, as a parent, to see other parents who, just like me, are strong on the outside and have so many doubts and fears on the inside. What it also did, was help her to express those things she wasn’t sharing with me because she didn't want to worry me. I got to hear that just like me, she can be really strong on the outside for the people around her. Hearing other kids’ experiences and concerns, made it okay for her to be vulnerable.

She will tell you that her favorite parts of WITT were getting to meet other “cool peeps” with food allergies, getting to practice with real epinephrine auto-injectors on grapefruits, and visiting a restaurant.

Actually “stabbing the grapefruit”, as the cool peeps called it, was one of the best activities for all of us. Dr. Jay Lieberman, FAAM's medical advisor, talked about food allergies for a bit, and then it became a tween Q&A, with a few parent questions sprinkled in. So often, kids listen as parents and doctors talk. It was time that they had a chance to take ownership and talk directly to an expert. It was also so important to directly address their fears about using epinephrine, a fear they all shared. Each one of us, and especially the kids, left that day knowing that epinephrine is a safe medicine and felt more confident in being able to use it.
Another phenomenal and life-changing experience was our group’s visit to Next Door American Eatery-Memphis Crosstown. Next Door is free of peanuts and soy, and has a designated gluten-free fryer*. Any food allergy parent will tell you that ordering food at a restaurant is one of the most stressful experiences ever, one miscommunication could have devastating consequences.

As parents, we talked about things to pay attention to at restaurants, and then the kids got a direct talk and Q&A with the restaurant's general manager, Brian Bazar, who showed them that any place worthy of their business would take their food allergy seriously. He talked about good communication strategies, what to ask for, and we discussed what to do if a server wasn’t taking their needs seriously or responding well. Then, he took us into the kitchen where Chef Derek showed us their process for flagging food allergy orders and preventing cross-contact of allergens so we had a concrete example of what those processes can look like. My family has eaten there a few times since then, and it’s a great experience to help my daughter build her confidence and practice how to visit a restaurant, as we talk about things to consider and ask each visit.
Perhaps one of the best conversations the kids had was about how food allergies are only one small part of who they are. We talked about their dreams too, and strategies for making goals reachable. We also learned about label reading, building a supportive network among family and friends, and strategies for asking for what we need from friends, something I can always get better at too. Our sessions rounded out at the end with self-care; because the anxiety and exclusion of food allergies takes an emotional, and sometimes even social, toll. 

We covered so much, but in reality, all we did was start the conversation about these subjects. I understand more now about how my daughter experiences food allergies and we will talk more and practice problem solving as she begins to take the lead into the jungle of the unknown.
*Always check this information with each visit as information may change.
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Our annual food-free egg hunt was hoppin' this year! Our little bunnies enjoyed decorating eggs (not real ones, but they look like it!), taking photos with Bunny, and watching The Magnificent Magic Show. For the grand finale, they hopped over to the egg hunt where they found plenty of eggs with non-food treasures inside. A food-free events means the children keep everything they find. This is a wonderful feeling for parents of children with food allergies - no digging to find what is deemed "safe" and no disappointed faces when the child cannot keep the candy they found because it contained their allergens. Parents also hunted for eggs to win some eggstra special prizes!
We send a huge THANK YOU to our sponsors and volunteers for making this special event happen. We could not have done it without you! The hearts of our volunteers, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), ​Ms. Rainbow, Memphis Zoo and Kendra Scott-Saddle Creek are the reason our children had huge smiles and felt included. Our events are fun, there is no doubt about that! They also serve a greater purpose of supporting our local food allergy community, encouraging fellowship among members and including our food allergy FAAMilies in special traditions. THANK YOU for helping us make that happen! 
This project was made possible through a community award from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
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Our annual food-free egg hunt was hoppin' this year! Our little bunnies enjoyed decorating eggs (not real ones, but they look like it!), taking photos with Bunny, and watching The Magnificent Magic Show. For the grand finale, they hopped over to the egg hunt where they found plenty of eggs with non-food treasures inside. A food-free events means the children keep everything they find. This is a wonderful feeling for parents of children with food allergies - no digging to find what is deemed "safe" and no disappointed faces when the child cannot keep the candy they found because it contained their allergens. Parents also hunted for eggs to win some eggstra special prizes!
We send a huge THANK YOU to our sponsors and volunteers for making this special event happen. We could not have done it without you! The hearts of our volunteers, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), ​Ms. Rainbow, Memphis Zoo and Kendra Scott-Saddle Creek are the reason our children had huge smiles and felt included. Our events are fun, there is no doubt about that! They also serve a greater purpose of supporting our local food allergy community, encouraging fellowship among members and including our food allergy FAAMilies in special traditions. THANK YOU for helping us make that happen! 
This project was made possible through a community award from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
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Egg hunts are right around the corner! Check out last year's Spring has Sprung blog post full of ideas for dyeable "eggs", safe for those with egg allergies, and ways to make your egg hunt fun for everyone. 
New find for 2018: PAAS Color & Hide eggs. You can find these dyeable, plastic eggs at Target. Each  kit includes dye tablets and a marker. You can also decorate using your favorite craft supplies or your own dyes.
For additional resources, hop over to FAAM's Easter & Passover board on Pinterest.
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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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