Handling Food Allergy Bullying & Long-Term Resolutions

With kids back in school, we cannot reiterate enough how crucial and how imperative it is that food allergy bullying is STOPPED, and children know how to handle it in an effective manner.

Last week, we shared a story about bullying that hit close to home. This blog is a follow-up on that. While excerpts are shared in this post, the full story can be accessed here.

The target in our story: my sister (when she was in second grade), struggling to keep the enemy in peanuts away from her, as the bully brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich towards her mouth. There came a point where she felt she couldn’t defend herself anymore, at least without the help of her school staff.

She mustered courage, got up and walked straight to the School Counselor’s office, just outside the cafeteria. She recalls shaking like a leaf, nervous and frightened, not just about thwarting a severe allergic reaction, but also losing popularity with the other friends, for being that “weird kid” who goes to the counselor.

GOING TO THE COUNSELOR IS NOT “WEIRD”

I am glad my sister’s school counselor sorted things out.

She rolled out the Restorative Justice Program.

It’s purpose was to give the bully:

  • a deeper understanding of the impact of her behavior

  • an opportunity to take responsibility for the harm she caused

  • an understanding to harness empathy

  • to chance to work on a way to restore the damaged relationship.

After a verbal and written apology from the girl and a note to her family the incident was history as far as my sister was concerned.

————————————————————-

Impact of bullying incidents in a child with food allergies are :

Distress and anxiety…While certainly real, these feelings are counterproductive. They impede problem solving.

Embarrassment and feelings of victimization…These feelings reinforce social isolation.

Resentment of the restrictions…In children while understandable, this can be toxic and it needs to be addressed.

Impede self-reliance…This is critical in developing a safe social environment in children with food allergies.

————————————————————-

Therefore, in my mind a better approach would be for us to:

  • Design and implement a school-based Food Allergy Awareness Program, perhaps run by the PTA.

  • It is imperative that we use the support of the school counselor, cafeteria staff, and teachers.

  • At the Middle/High School level, an Allergy Advocate Club would also be a great idea.

  • Be proactive…be the change you wish to see in the world.

 

PLEASE SHARE TO RAISE AWARENESS…YOU ARE A FOOD ALLERGY ADVOCATE!!

Tweet us @AllergySmartz//Instagram us @AllergySmartz//Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/AllergySmartz//Email us at allergysmartz@gmail.com//Or comment right here on WordPress!

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Food Allergy Bullying: Et tu, Brute?

My sister’s narrative of a cold winter afternoon in second grade has stuck with me…for it was not just a horrific experience for her, but is perhaps another story of “Cafeteria Mayhem” for many children with food allergies.

As she walked in for lunch with her best friend, little did she know that her trusted crony would leave her a victim of the “mean girl phenomena” or quite simply put- BULLYING!!

Back then, my sister was allergic to peanuts. That afternoon lunch started off somewhat atypical. Strangely, this friend, an otherwise allergy-friendly kid bought a PB&J sandwich. That was unusual and had my sister on the edge.

As the girl broke a piece of bread smeared in peanut butter, she turned towards my sister and said “I’m gonna force-feed you peanuts today!”

Frightened, my sister tried to move away, although still seated. This potentially lethal piece moved closer to her as she arched over.  Her dilemma was how to protect herself, while conforming to the cafeteria rules of “sitting in your spot.”

Arguably, seven year olds don’t always make the best decisions. But, in their defense sometimes even if they know what is best for them the regimented, stereotypical rules in school do not give children the latitude to do something drastically different.

As my sister struggled to keep the enemy in peanuts away from her, there came a point where she couldn’t arch back any further.

She mustered courage, got up and walked straight to the School Counselor’s office, just outside the cafeteria. She recalls shaking like a leaf, nervous and frightened, not just about thwarting a severe allergic reaction, but also losing popularity with the other friends, for being that “weird kid” who goes to the counselor.

Eleven years later, I assume that her friend was impulsive and the act was not a contemplated, conscious attempt to harm my sister. But for someone with severe peanut allergy this was an ultimate in betrayal by her closest friend. This arrogance and a conspiracy of sorts, could be summed up in three words…Et tu, Brute?”

I am glad my sister’s school counselor sorted things out.

She rolled out the Restorative Justice program.

It’s purpose was to:

  • give the bully a deeper understanding of the impact of her behavior
  • to provide her an opportunity to take responsibility for the harm she caused
  • to harness empathy
  • to work on a way to restore the damaged relationship.

After a verbal and written apology from the girl and a note to her family the incident was history as far as my sister was concerned.

————————————————————————–

Bullying incidents in a child with food allergies are likely to cause:

Distress and anxiety…While certainly real, these feelings are counterproductive. They impede problem solving.

Embarrassment and feelings of victimization…These feelings reinforce social isolation.

Resentment of the restrictions…In children while understandable, this can be toxic and it needs to be addressed.

Impede self-reliance…This is critical in developing a safe social environment in children with food allergies.

Therefore, in my mind a better approach would be for us to:

Design and implement a school-based

Food Allergy Awareness Program, perhaps run by the PTA.

It is imperative that we use the support of the school counselor, cafeteria staff, and teachers.

At the Middle/High School level, an Allergy Advocate Club would also be a great idea.

Be proactive…be the change you wish to see in the world.

PLEASE SHARE TO RAISE AWARENESS…YOU ARE A FOOD ALLERGY ADVOCATE!!

Tweet us @AllergySmartz//Instagram us @AllergySmartz//Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/AllergySmartz//Email us at allergysmartz@gmail.com//Or comment right here on WordPress!

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter to Family

Here at FAL we want to educate as many people about food allergies as we can.

Sometimes family members are not very accommodating of food allergies, especially elderly relatives. It’s not because they don’t care, they do, they simply don’t understand.  Today, we have for you a letter template to fill out and send to relatives before you meet them. Here it is!

Dear [NAME OF RELATIVE],

There are few others in this world who love (NAME OF CHILD) as dearly as you do. We are thankful that you are such an important part of his/her life.

As you know [NAME OF CHILD] is allergic to [ALLERGEN]. Therefore, I wanted to discuss with you briefly what [ALLERGEN] allergies mean.

What the food allergy means is that [NAME OF CHILD] body treats even a minuscule amount of  [ALLERGEN] as an enemy. If [NAME OF CHILD] eats or is exposed to [ALLERGEN] he/she can get very sick.

[ALLERGEN] allergies are NOT a disease. [NAME OF CHILD] is a normal, active child.  

The signs of an allergic reaction are:

  •       abdominal pain or cramps
  •       diarrhea
  •       difficulty breathing
  •       difficulty swallowing
  •       dizziness
  •       fear or anxiety
  •       flushing of the face
  •       heart palpitations
  •       itchy red spots (hives) on the skin
  •       itchy/watery eyes
  •       loss of consciousness
  •       nasal congestion
  •       nausea/vomiting
  •       pain or tightness in the chest
  •       scratchy throat
  •       swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
  •       wheezing

Sometimes, exposure to an allergen could cause the windpipe to swell up, and the blood pressure to drop dangerously low.  This could develop just seconds after exposure to [ALLERGEN]. An allergic reaction is an EMERGENCY…it needs to be addressed IMMEDIATELY! If left untreated, it could be fatal within minutes.

When we meet, we can talk about what the course of action is, if this were to happen to [NAME OF CHILD].

It is for this reason that I view and handle [NAME OF CHILD] diet very differently.

While at times it may seem I am very overprotective of him/her with regards to food, or it may seem I am not letting [NAME OF CHILD] savor and enjoy food like other children, I HAVE TO DO THIS in order to keep [NAME OF CHILD] safe.

I am requesting your support for while we are together, so that while having a good time, together we can do everything to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction.

For reasons due to allergy, he/she may miss out on a family recipe or other goodies. Regardless of the food, he/she always enjoys being around you.

If you would like to cook using a recipe that is allergy safe for [NAME OF CHILD], please let me know what you need. I will get the allergy safe ingredients. Having food cooked by [RELATIONSHIP OF CHILD TO RELATIVE] is always so special and I am sure [NAME OF CHILD] will always treasure this.

We are looking forward to the visit. Thank you for honoring this request.

Warm regards,

[PARENT/GUARDIAN NAME]

Going to College #2

Attention College Bound Students!!
Have you heard of the FARE College Food Allergy Program?

FARE started a campaign in 2014 to not only help educate college staff on how to best accommodate children with food allergies, but also compile a database so prospective students can learn how each college plans to handle food allergies.

This new database is expected to be available by late 2016/early 2017.

For more information, visit: http://www.foodallergy.org/collegeprogram

If you’re heading off to college sooner than the database release, reach out to the colleges you’re considering for more information!

Many colleges already have established programs (such as mandatory staff trainings and additional allergen-free dining facilities) to ensure that their students with allergies can have a fun and safe time on campus.

Stay tuned for next week’s post: Allergy-Safe Airlines! More Going to College posts are on the way too!

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Hey #FALowers! Guess what? FoodAllergyLowdown is back in full force! Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week!

Today, we have one of our favorite restaurants: Einstein Bros. Bagels. Whether you’re traveling, or just going out for a bite, this is the perfect place to be – any time of day.

With a plethora of choices (not limited to breakfast), there is always something new (and safe) to try.

With a detailed allergy menu (www.einsteinbros.com/images/docs/EBB_Nutrition.pdf) and understanding staff, Einstein Bros. is always a great option for those concerned with food allergies.

So what are you waiting for? Head out to Einstein Bros. today!

Come back next week for Going to College #2!!!

 

WOW Stories: “Le Meridien” FAL’s 3-Day Hotel Special #3

As a young girl visiting India, I was curious and wanted to delve into the wide variety of regional cuisines native to India. However, with food allergies, all the exotic ingredients, unfamiliar dishes were both exciting and intimidating.

Together we did research and all votes went to Le Meridien, Windsor Place, New Delhi.

LM EREESE

The WOW Story!!

My experience at the Le Meridien in New Delhi was very positive.

Their dynamic, creative, and dedicated team left no stone unturned in making it the best possible experience for me.

As always I had exchanged mail with the General Manager and the Executive Chef regarding my food allergies, beforehand.

At check-in we were told that the Executive Chef would come up to the room shortly, to discuss at length the specifics about allergy safe dining at Le Meridien.

I knew we were off to a great start.

Over the course of my stay, some things that he pointed out reflected how well versed he was in handling food allergies.

He said that he would personally cook all my meals while I was there. As an added precaution all the other team members in the kitchen would be briefed too.

In discussing the dinner options for the night, he said that the restaurant gets very busy on Saturday nights.

It was Saturday night and the main restaurant was very busy he recommended in room dining. The reason was to limit the possibility of a mix up while serving in the restaurant.

I enjoyed some authentic chicken and lamb dishes with an array of Indian breads, personally delivered by him.

LM Room Service

My bread was not served in a traditional bread basket. He pointed out that while the baskets are washed and sanitized each time, he did not want to risk any sort of residue from exotic breads with nuts and therefore my breads were served in a glass basket.

I was amazed at his insightfulness and creativity.

The magic of spices, the aroma of the exotic cuisine was nothing short of a scintillating food experience!!

For breakfast he invited us to the restaurant. I asked if he could make nut free chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes.

LM Breakfast

As we sat down to eat, he stopped by and rearranged my place setting. As a precaution, he removed my table mat, “just in case of any prior residue” he said.

He also removed the forks, knife etc. that were placed on the mat, and replaced them with new ones that he put on a plate.

These small gestures spoke volumes about his allergy awareness.

Just to reassure me that there were no nuts or possible contamination he showed us the label on the chocolate chips.

Small acts like this have such a huge impact on dining out with food allergies. I would have asked to check the label, but the spontaneity was what made me smile.

Peacock is the national bird of India…and there it was…majestic and beautiful coffee art on my cup of coffee.

LM Peakock COffee Art.jpg

We were out for the rest of the day and returned late. I noticed a piece of cheesecake with a note next to it. It was Indian Independence Day and he had made for me a NUT FREE CHEESECAKE. Saffron, white and green are the colors of the Indian flag. The note read “We have made this NUT FREE cheesecake for you in celebration of the Indian Independence Day!”

LM Dessert

This was the legendary Indian hospitality I had read about.

Disclaimer: As always, be sure to communicate your allergies to the restaurant staff to the extent that YOU are comfortable with the way they are handled. For guidance in this matter we recommend our App, AllergySmartz.

**We hope you enjoyed the final installment of FAL’s 3-Day “WOW Stories” Special about Allergy-Friendly Hotels. Our next post will be out next WEDNESDAY at 4:00 PM EST! Stay Tuned!

WOW Stories: “The Hilton” FAL’s 3-Day Hotel Special #2

Over the course of many years I have stayed at The Hilton and their franchises several times, in the US, Hawaii and at three of their international locations:

  • Hilton Niagara Falls – Canada
  • Hilton London Heathrow Airport – United Kingdom
  • Hilton Jumeirah Beach- Dubai.

When staying at a hotel overseas I strongly recommend emailing the General Manager and the Executive Chef prior to arrival. Occasionally you will even see the hotel suggest this:

If you have a delicate allergy and need more information or support from the hotel, please contact us in advance of your stay.”

In my experience the chefs at the Hilton Restaurants are experienced in preparing meals with special dietary guidelines.

At the three international locations that I stayed at, I found them to be very knowledgeable, accommodating and most importantly proactive with regards to food allergies. It seemed standard for the following statement to appear on the menu, but what was remarkable is their competence in executing the precautions:

Please note that some of our dishes may contain traces of nuts. For guests with special dietary requirements of allergies who may want to know about the food ingredients used, please ask a member of the restaurant team.

                                                              

 The WOW Story!!

luau.png

While visiting the Big Island of Hawaii I dreamt of an exhilarating, experience under the magical Hawaiian night sky, swaying palms, music, hula dancers – an experience that would heighten the senses- a Luau.

The catch however was that a big part of the Luau is in the indulgence of a Hawaiian feast – a buffet that is filled with an array of Pan-Pacific food.

I did my research. The Legends of Hawaii Luau at the Hilton Waikoloa Village seemed the best fit.

Prior to making reservations for the Luau I spoke to the Executive Chef. We reviewed the dietary restrictions and the necessary precautions. He promised me a safe and memorable experience.

When we arrived at the Luau, he came and greeted us.

He had prepared a multi course meal. It was a Hawaiian- American combination of some traditional island dishes and some continental fare. He pointed out that the Kalua Pig was safe to eat.

Experiencing the individual flavors and aromas of the food while watching the Hula Kahiko performers beneath the mid-Pacific skies was an unforgettable experience!

Disclaimer: As always, be sure to communicate your allergies to the restaurant staff to the extent that YOU are comfortable with the way they are handled. For guidance in this matter we recommend our App, AllergySmartz.

**We hope you enjoyed the second installment of FAL’s 3-Day “WOW Stories” Special about Allergy-Friendly Hotels. The final installment will be out TOMORROW at 4:00 PM EST! Stay Tuned!