The month of May is Food Allergy Awareness Month. HOORAY!! Are there special things that you do to get involved in your local food allergy community and help raise awareness for food allergies? Over the course of our four-year journey with food allergies, I’ve found many ways to get involved within our local food allergy community. But that support network didn’t fall out of the sky for my family and me; it took several long and lonely years before I tapped into the resources that were available in our community -- hiding right under our noses!
Following the diagnosis of my little men, there was no one to teach me how to read food labels, cook without the top eight allergens (dairy, soy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and gluten), and more importantly, there was no one who truly understood the emotions and fears that my new title “food allergy mom” brought about on a daily basis. It was a stressful, confusing, and lonely time, and I knew then that I wanted to find ways to help other food allergy families who were adjusting to the challenges of living with food allergies. I didn’t know exactly what that would look like. All I knew was that I didn’t want other families to walk through the darkness and fear that I felt and experienced following our diagnosis.
Nine months after my oldest’s egg-allergy diagnosis, I stumbled upon a contact for a food allergy support group in my area: the Indianapolis chapter of Parents of Children Having Allergies (Indy PoCHA). The group was small, but I didn’t mind; I was simply grateful to find other parents just like me. Of course, while at my first meeting, the group coordinator shared with us that she would no longer be able to run the group because her husband had just taken a job in Florida. When it became clear that no one was going to volunteer to lead the group, I offered to take over. I didn’t know what that would look like or what it would involve, but I knew that I desperately needed the group myself. And having finally found a group of parents who truly understood our new-found life, I didn’t want to risk the chance of the group disappearing.
That was four years ago, and our group is still going strong. We’ve had lots of new families join us from month to month and it’s a great way to support one another while also raising awareness among our friends, extended families, and neighbors. We bring in a number of speakers within our community who touch on a variety of topics: everything from nutrition and diet to the emotional wellbeing of our food-allergic loved ones. If you are new to the world of food allergies or well-seasoned, check to see if there is a support group in your area. I promise that you will both benefit from the group and bless others by your own story and experiences. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has a wonderful list of support groups across the country. Click here to find a support group near you.
Another fun opportunity for food allergy families looking to get involved and raise food allergy awareness is by joining the FARE Walk for Food Allergy. There are over 50 walks taking place across the country. The FARE Walk, through the efforts of food allergy families, raises funds and awareness year after year to create a safer world for those with food allergies. My family has been participating for the past 3 years and it is one of the highlights of our summer. My little men love going because they know that we are walking for them. Plus they love getting to meet other kids who have food allergies just like they do. It’s a special day and our entire extended family comes out for the event to walk for and support us. Click here to find a walk near you. Who would you be walking for this year?
There are many ways to get involved within the greater food allergy community, but sometimes the best way to get involved is to look for opportunities to serve others with similar needs. By simply being open about my little men’s allergies, I’ve had the privilege of sharing our story with other newly diagnosed families as well as serving as a resource to businesses, churches, schools, and community groups seeking to serve food-allergic children and their families. Being the local go-to food allergy mom is not the type of role I would have signed up for, but I’m proud that I get to do it because I know that I’m supporting other families who are walking through the same difficult path my family and I have walked through – and are still walking through.
In what ways do you get involved and raise food allergy awareness?