No Nut Butter Drive

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!


Great Grandma vs. Mangoes

Food allergies have gained significantly more publicity in the past decade, it seems.  Food manufacturers have become more aware of food allergies in their labeling practices and since the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, which requires ingredient labels to mention any top allergens present in the food, was passed the United States in 2006.

Food allergies are nothing new, however.  Before all of the publicity, legislature, and support for food allergic individuals became readily available and accessible, these people had to get by somehow.

My great-grandmother was born in 1906 and she had a severe mango allergy.  Her allergy did not cause her too much trouble as she was growing up in Iowa.  However, when she moved to Central America and had a mango tree in her front yard, she had to be more cautious.  Being more vigilant was no easy task in a time when not many people had heard of food allergies, and those that did know about them did not understand them very well.

My great-grandmother knew that if she touched the outside peel of a mango, a rash would appear on her hand.  One time, my grandmother left her purse, which she had been carrying after eating a mango at school, astray, and my great-grandmother picked it up to move it.  After touching the purse, though, her hand had the same rash.

She understood that touching the outside of a mango always initiated a reaction.  She wondered, though, if she could eat the inside of the mango if it did not have the peel on it.  One day, while home alone, she carefully removed the peel and tasted the inside of the mango.  Shortly after, the maid came home and found her passed out on the floor and called an ambulance.  (She was eventually okay.)

The great-grandmother’s attempt to eat a mango seems absurd to food allergic people today, but in that time in made perfect sense since she did not fully understand her allergy.  I wonder now how many people throughout history whose deaths or illnesses were credited to imbalances of the bodily humors or tendencies to become weak or ill actually had food allergies.


A Yummy Fall Recipe: Butterscotch Scones

In past few years, I have come across a few companies that offer baking chips that we food allergic people can actually use.  Companies like Vermont Nut Free Chocolates (tree nut and peanut free) and Guittard Chocolate Company (peanut and gluten free) make butterscotch, dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate, among other flavors of chips.  They can be used to make chocolate chip cookies, but here is another recipe in case you’re looking for some variety.
 Butterscotch Scones – yields 12 scones

This recipe is adapted from the Susie Peck’s ‘Pewter Rose Butterscotch Scones’ recipe as told to reporter Jennifer Lover.  
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1/3 to 1/2 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen

3/4 cups butterscotch chips

PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees.  COMBINE flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  BEAT egg lightly in a measuring cup with ounce markings and add milk to 6 ounces.  GRATE butter using a coarse grater into the flour mixture and toss with a fork until combined.  Add beaten egg and milk, reserving 1 tablespoon of the liquid.  STIR gently to combine.  Add butterscotch chips and stir carefully working the dough as little as possible.  TURN dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and fold it a few times (about 6, the heat of your hands can melt the butter).  Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough to about 1 inch thick.  Cut into 2-inch triangles.  TRANSFER scones to an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and brush tops with reserved milk mixture.  BAKE until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.  Serve warm.


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!!


Celebrate Safely

Whether it’s a dinner party, birthday party, graduation party, summer pool party, wedding reception, etc., it is extremely important to consider your food allergies and plan ahead.  Here are a few steps to follow to stay safe in social situations.

1) Find out from the host/hostess what kind of food will be served and notify them of your food allergies.  Ask if it is a catered event, and if it is, ask for the name of the catering company and call them to discuss your food allergies prior to the event.  If it is a potluck, then plan to bring a dish that you know you can eat, and try to keep it separate from foods people have brought that contain your allergen.

2)  No matter what kind of food will be served, eat a little food before the event so that if you cannot eat anything there you will not be hungry.  Also pack some snacks of your own, or even a whole meal to eat during the party.

3)  This one goes without saying, but you always need to bring your epinephrine.  I usually put mine in my purse (which has a button on the outside that says “Epinephrine inside!”).  Once you arrive at the party, you have two options.  You can carry your purse/bag with you epinephrine the whole time.  This is easy if you have a small cross body purse. You could also find a safe spot that is out of reach from a dog or small child and away from water if you are at the pool, but also easy for other people to find in case of an emergency.

4) Make sure that there are people at the event who know about your food allergies. Tell them where your epinephrine is and how to use it, and instruct them to call 911 immediately if you have a reaction.

The more you try to hide your allergy, the more awkward it will be.  Be honest and don’t let anyone make you feel unsafe or left out because of your allergies.  Explain why you aren’t eating the same food as everyone else- they will probably find it interesting more than anything else!


The Wonders of Sunbutter ❁

I had my first PBJ yesterday.  Well, it wasn’t really a PBJ- it was actually a sunbutter and jelly sandwich.  I made sure to explain this to my friends so they were not alarmed to find me eating something that looks like peanut butter.  Sunbutter is the closest thing to peanut butter that I can eat without having a severe reaction.  Sunbutter is made with sunflower seeds, which I can eat.  (Sunflower seeds are not tree nuts.)  It makes a nice substitute for peanut butter.  Try it on ice cream, crackers, sandwiches, celery, apples… anything, really.

Made with sunflower seeds, sunbutter is peanut butter without the peanuts.
Made with sunflower seeds, sunbutter is peanut butter without the peanuts.

I love sunbutter paired with chocolate, so I was excited to try Sun Cups.  Made without gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, corn, or soy in a nut and gluten-free facility, they are the Reese’s for allergy kids.  The claim on the package, “delightfully delicious”, is most certainly true!

sun cup 2

Reese's cups for those with peanut allergies
Reese’s cups for kids with peanut allergies

Two New Obsessions

First of all, a massive thank you to Mrs. Reulbach for introducing me to the blogging world!  I’ve certainly thought about starting a blog, but I don’t think I ever would have been successful without learning all the particulars.  I am definitely obsessed with blogging now.

These cupcakes from Walmart are delicious!
These cupcakes from Walmart are delicious!

My second new obsession is chocolate cupcakes (shocker, I know).  When I was little I would run around the grocery store picking up every box of chocolate cookies, brownies, or candies and frantically read the ingredients, hoping that maybe this time they would be safe for me.  Usually they weren’t.  This is why I was super excited to find Walmart’s mini chocolate cupcakes that are made in a peanut-free facility and are free of tree nuts.  It’s not often that the bakery items stacked in a beautiful tower at the entrance of the store with an adorable little label are the ones with that glorious little peanut with its giant red X through it.  Each box contains a dozen cupcakes which fluffy cake and creamy icing.  They make the perfect treat, and I’ve been eating them rather often…

Always happy to see this kind of allergy warning on chocolate.
Always happy to see this kind of allergy warning on chocolate.