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.


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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:

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!

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!!


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!


WOW Stories: “The Westin” FAL’s 3-Day Hotel Special #1

Sharing positive experiences of dining at hotel restaurants with international chains has the power to inspire, motivate and reinforce the efforts of the staff. Recognizing a chef who offered an exemplary dining experience sends more travelers with special dietary needs to the hotel chain.

As a world traveler with tree nut allergies I always exchange emails with the hotel’s General Manager and Executive Chef prior to my arrival (I highly recommend this).

My experiences at many locations of The Westin both domestic and abroad have been delightful.

The WOW Story!!

I arrived at The Westin at 2:00 AM local time, after a long international flight. I was thrilled to be greeted at check-in by the Head Chef. We sat down, and he made a note of all the dietary restrictions, cross contamination issues, etc.

He then had the concierge enter the information into their system. This alerted all the kitchen staff on EVERY shift.

The next morning, at breakfast, when the hostess sat me down, she informed the Executive Chef of my arrival.

The Executive Chef made an extra effort to make himself available at all times and personally took responsibility for every meal. He enquired and reassured me that he would personally cook those exotic dishes on the menu, while keeping them allergy safe, as he wanted me to enjoy the various cuisines.

As a backup a chef was assigned just for me, on every shift.

The entire team, especially the food service folks were friendly, helpful and inviting.

Every meal was a legendary experience.

As someone with tree nut allergies the huge array of delicious desserts are usually off limits. Seeing the chef’s passion to rise to the challenge and his demonstrated experience over my week long stay, I even got to enjoy the sublime texture and glorious flavor of some exotic desserts.

I came back with a deep sense of gratitude for that personal touch that made my stay at The Westin, Gurgaon, India a unique, positive and memorable 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 first installment of FAL’s 3-Day “WOW Stories” Special about Allergy-Friendly Hotels. The second installment will be out TOMORROW at 4:00 PM EST! Stay Tuned!