By ABBIE JEFFERIS

Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 13 to 19. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), one in every thirteen children has a food allergy. That’s two per classroom. Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. My toddler is anaphylactic to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sunflower, sesame and legumes (except soy and kidney beans). We’ve experienced our fair share of reactions already. Food allergies impact a lot of people with serious consequences. I’m here to share what is happening in our own community to support Food Allergy Awareness Week and urge you to join.

Gov. Phil Scott’s office confirmed there will be a proclamation for Food Allergy Awareness Week. Official proclamations signify a commitment to food allergies at the state level; helping elected officials understand the serious nature. The proclamations highlight the importance of legislation that supports the food allergy community. You can go to www.foodallergy.org to view FARE’s 2018 Food Allergy Awareness Week Proclamations map and see how many states have “turned it teal” for food allergies.

At least two local libraries are hosting Food Allergy Awareness Week story times. The two I know of are Essex Free Library on Thursday, May 17 at 10:30 a.m. and Brownell Library on Saturday, May 19 at 10:00 a.m. Each storytime will feature books that introduce food allergies in a fun and relatable way. There will be a conversation about how people eat differently and how to keep friends safe. Children will have the opportunity to color educational bookmarks and activity sheets and earn teal ribbon stickers.

These story times are one way to address food allergy bullying. FARE says this impacts at least one in three children with food allergies. The media hasn’t been helping. “Peter Rabbit” made light of food allergy bullying when Tom McGregor experienced anaphylaxis after rabbits threw his allergen at him. This is while a group of teenage girls got in trouble for giving a pineapple tainted high-five to a classmate with a known pineapple allergy, causing an allergic reaction and sending her to the hospital. A 13-year-old British boy had cheese flung into his mouth at school and died despite receiving treatment.

This is any parent’s worst nightmare and why Food Allergy Awareness Week is incredibly important to me. We can help combat food allergy bullying by starting a positive conversation at a very early age. Lead discussions of safety and inclusion; call out the media when things like Peter Rabbit come up.

Visit www.ollergy.com/food-allergy-awareness-week-2 to learn about fundraising events to support FARE. According to its website, “FARE is the leading national organization working on behalf of the 15 million Americans who have food allergies … We work hard to ensure that every dollar raised brings us closer to improving the quality of life, and the health of individuals with food allergies.” Donations give families newly diagnosed patient kits and provide schools with training and educational materials, which I can say from first-hand experience is needed in this community.

You can learn more about allergy-friendly food by visiting Healthy Living on Saturday, May 19 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. There will be samples as well as educational material and a continued fundraising effort for FARE.

Want to get involved in Food Allergy Awareness Week? If your child is in school or daycare, ask to read a book and lead a discussion. Make sure you wear teal on Thursday, May 17 for #TealTakeover. If you have questions or need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m incredibly passionate about spreading food allergy awareness.

Abbie Jefferis is the founder of ollergy, a site dedicated to spreading food allergy awareness and helping families raise children with food allergies. She can be reached at ollergy@gmail.com. She was raised in Essex and now lives in Jericho. For more information about food allergies, please visit www.ollergy.com, @ollergy on Instagram and www.facebook.com/ollergy.