Pumpkin Wall 2016 By the Numbers

Pumpkin Wall 2016 By the Numbers

1: number of previous blog posts to check out before you read this one

  • 101: number of carved pumpkins on the wall
  • 10: number of shopping carts filled with purchased pumpkins
  • 1: number of UHaul trucks used to transport the pumpkins to my house
  • 1: number of trips to Walmart (made possible by the aforementioned UHaul)
  • 1: how many carving parties it took to carve all the pumpkins
  • 57: how many friends and neighbors helped carve
  • 126: number of carving tools used
  • 0: number of stab wounds and lost fingers while carving
  • 43: how many Halloween songs were played during the carving
  • 2: number of pinatas the kids got to play with
  • 4: how many sections of construction scaffolding supported the pumpkins
  • 6: number of feet tall the wall stood
  • 30: number of feet wide the wall stretched
  • 900: how many LED light bulbs illuminated the wall
  • 7: how many days the wall lasted before fruit flies took over
  • 1: how many local publications featured the wall on the front page (!!!)
  • 1,820: number of dollars raised in support of Food Allergy Research & Education
  • 50,724: how many seeds are in 101 pumpkins (just kidding, I made that one up)
  • 1,000,000,000: number of thanks to everyone who made this possible!!!



Necessary Medicine, Unnecessary Price Spike

Prices of Epi-Pens have more than quadrupled over the past few years.  The devices, which are one of only available treatments for food allergy reactions on the US market, are now costing hundreds of dollars.  As a result, I now have only one set of Epi-Pens, compared to the two or three sets that I used to distribute between my house, the school nurse, and my backpack.  For less privileged people, it can be difficult to even purchase one set with the price surge.  On top of that, the Epi-Pens have a shelf life of eighteen months, but Epi-Pens that are new to the shelves are elusive, so food allergic people have to purchase new ones closer to every twelve months… and bear the elevated Epi-Pen price annually.

The price raise has recently been getting tons of media attention, with even Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaking about the issue.  Public health experts and legislators alike worry about the accessibility of epinephrine for food allergic Americans.  Thousands of Americans are speaking out against the price surge too by signing this petition.  It is hugely important that food allergic people can afford epinephrine and that they should never be forced to use self made syringes, expired Epi-Pens, or even to go without epinephrine, so please take a moment to fill out the petition to protect food allergic people!



Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week!  FAAW 2016 runs from May 8th – 14th.  This year, I requested proclamations from my governor and the mayor of my city, and both came through for me!  FAAW is being celebrated in other ways as well.  Turn it Teal is working to build food allergy awareness by lighting up iconic buildings in teal (the color for food allergy awareness).  Tonight (May 8th) the Empire State Building will feature teal lights and on May 13th Niagara Falls will be lit in teal as well.  (See the full list of lighting around Canada and the US here.)

The Great Wall of Pumpkins

The Great Wall of Pumpkins

When I was little, my mom read about a neighborhood in my city that builds a gigantic wall of illuminated jack-o-lanterns every Halloween.  My family and I went to check it out, and we were amazed by what we saw.  The wall made a huge impression on me.  When I grew too old to trick-or-treat, my family and I decided that we wanted to build a pumpkin wall of our own.

We bought some construction scaffolding, planks of wood, black spray paint, and outdoor Christmas lights and constructed the six foot tall structure in our front yard.  In the first year, our wall held roughly two dozen pumpkins carved and donated by my family and our neighbors on our street.  The next year, the wall held closer to thirty pumpkins.  This year, it displays sixty carved pumpkins.  We even hosted a carving party for friends and neighbors in which we provided pumpkins to be carved (we were able to buy them in bulk with a price break at a big box store).

From the beginning of the pumpkin wall project, we linked it with FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) so that we could raise awareness about food allergies and the difficulties faced by food allergic kids when trick-or-treating.  We asked people to donate a carved pumpkin and/or a small monetary donation.  As the wall grew, my food allergy story spread to more and more people.  The word circulated around my neighborhood and every time someone stopped to stare at the wall, I would tell them about food allergies, and how they had always been difficult to handle on Halloween.  Now our pumpkin wall has become a treasured neighborhood tradition that also supports a good cause!

It’s the Great (Teal) Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

It’s the Great (Teal) Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

When I was a kid, I went trick-or-treating every year on Halloween, but I never ate any of the candy I collected (tragic, right?).  Much of it had nuts or peanuts in it, so I gave it all to my friends who did not have food allergies and who were always more than happy to get the extra candy.  My parents always bought safe candy for me (thanks mom!) to exchange with the candy I had collected so that I would not feel excluded from all the Halloween fun.  (Our go-to supplier was always Vermont Nut Free Chocolates.)  There never seemed to be a ton of awareness for kids with food allergies on Halloween, although I did have some neighbors who were always sure to buy nut-free candy because they knew about my allergies.  Food allergic kids trick-or-treating today have a great new opportunity.  Last year Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) launched the Teal Pumpkin Project (teal is the official food allergy color).  Participating households paint and display a teal pumpkin, which is the sign that non-food treats (such as key chains, bubbles, bracelets, coins, stickers, etc.) are available.  Get involved and learn more by going to the Teal Pumpkin Project.  All you need is a pumpkin (it can be big or small, real or fake) and a can of teal spray paint (release your inner graffiti artist!).  And stock up on non-food treats!

Come Fly With Me…

Come Fly With Me…

Recently, bipartisan legislation championed by FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has been introduced that can make air travel much easier for food allergic passengers.  If the bill is passed, it will require airlines to carry epinephrine auto-injectors and train crew members to be familiar with how to recognize and handle a reaction.  Read more about the bill and how it was created here.

The next step is to get the bill passed into law.   You can help by going to FARE’s Advocacy Action Center and setting up an account (it takes two seconds, I promise).   They provide a template letter (which you can customize if you want) and they send it straight to your senators.  

Here is the template letter:

Dear [your senator],

As a resident of your state, and someone who is personally affected by life-threatening food allergies, I am asking you to co-sponsor S. 1972, the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act of 2015, that would improve airline policies regarding food allergies. Like other entities that serve the public, airlines need to be prepared in the event a passenger has an acute allergic reaction during flight.

This legislation was initiated and championed by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the leading advocacy organization working on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, and addresses the key concerns raised by the coalition of groups FARE convened in the Fall of 2014 to address improved airline accommodations for food allergic air passengers. This coalition includes Allergy and Asthma Network, Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, and the No Nut Traveler group.

The Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act of 2015 directs the GAO to conduct and submit a report to Congress on air carrier policies relating to passengers with food allergies. The report will cover a range of topics important to the food allergy community, including the content and variability of existing accommodation policies, as well as how those policies are applied, how staff are trained to carry them out and how passengers learn about and utilize them. The study would also explore the incidence of in-flight reactions and emergency landings, costs of emergency landings, and the resources required to develop model accommodation policies.

The bill would require the addition of epinephrine auto-injectors to aircraft within 180 days and calls for crewmembers to be trained on how to recognize the symptoms of an acute allergic reaction and how to administer auto-injectable epinephrine as the first-line treatment of anaphylaxis. Schools in 48 states now stock epinephrine auto-injectors, and according to a 2015 study, more than 300 lives were saved during the 2013-14 school year because of the administration of this medication, often by teachers and other non-medical personnel.

The bill also directs the Federal Aviation Administration and individual airlines to clarify within 30 days that the 1:1,000 epinephrine ampules that are currently included in emergency medical kits are intended to be used for the treatment of anaphylaxis. 

On behalf of the thousands of food allergic families in our state, I implore you to co-sponsor this legislation that will make it easier for the millions of Americans with food allergies to avail themselves of air travel. 

Thank you for your consideration.


[insert your name]


Yay ADA!

Today is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The act helps eliminate discrimination  so that everyone can have a chance to lead an independent life without being excluded and is meant to give equal opportunities to everyone.  Why am I bringing this up here?  Because according to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), food allergies may be considered a disability under federal laws such as the ADA.  It covers those with physical or mental issues that affect one or more of the body’s systems.  Food allergies are included in the term ‘disability’ because they can affect the respiratory, digestive, or circulatory systems.   The ADA and other federal laws require public and private schools to accomodate children with food allergies so that they can receive an education while staying alive.  The ADA makes the lives of so many people, including mine, much easier!  So Yay ADA!!