I have been a member of the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) Teen Advisory Group (TAG) for a few years, and this year I’ve had the privilege of being one of two Southeast regional TAG leaders. Earlier this year, the FARE national programs director encouraged all regions to do a service project, so we in Southeast TAG decided to do food allergy friendly food drives in our cities and towns. Here’s how the project I ran in my area went.
Since I am allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, I decided to do a peanut butter alternative drive. I set up some cardboard boxes advertising the drive and asked a variety of grocery stores to display them in the fronts of their stores. Several larger grocery store chains that I approached declined to participate in my drive. Other grocers such as Earth Fare and The Fresh Market declined to allow me to conduct the drive in their stores, but instead generously donated jars of nut free butters. Local Charlotte NC grocer Healthy Home Market was willing to display my boxes in their three storefronts. The boxes were left out for six weeks and they each accumulated donations from shoppers. During the duration of the project, I worked with Parents of Allergic Kids (PAK), a local food allergy advocacy group, to publicize the food drive through PAK’s social media. FARE also promoted my drive on the Charlotte FARE Walk for Food Allergy newsletter. On walk day, October 22nd, I brought a collection box to the event and gathered even more donations.
In all, I was able to collect 56 jars of nut free butters such as WOWBUTTER, SunButter, and I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter. Initially I had intended to donate the jars to local food banks in my area to benefit needy food allergic individuals. However, the drive concluded just as Hurricane Matthew was pummeling the Southeastern United States, including my home state of North Carolina. Urgent requests for assistance to the eastern part of NC started pouring in. One of the leaders of PAK suggested that we send the donations to the affected areas and I agreed that this was a great idea. We sent the jars to a food bank that was able to separate and clearly mark the donations as appropriate for people with food allergies (see this post to help – there is still a need to help people affected by the storm!)
I presented my food drive project on behalf of Southeast TAG at the 2016 FARE Teen Summit in Milwaukee, WI on November 13th. Thank you to all who helped to make the project a success!