Over the past several months, we have elevated the food allergy conversation with the federal government with the help of members in our community like Pam.
Pam Isaak is a busy food allergy mom and leader of the Niagara Food Allergy Parents Support Group. Last fall, she decided to get involved in our advocacy campaign to help #MakeFoodAllergyCount by sharing her family’s food allergy story with her Member of Parliament (MP).
Tell us a little about your experience advocating with your MP. How did it go and what did you share?
Reaching out to my MP was very straightforward. With the help of the draft from Food Allergy Canada, I simply included my own story and commentary right into the email. Within 48 hours I heard back from the constituency office, offering me a phone meeting with my MP a few days later. We spoke for about 30 minutes; it was very positive and empowering for me to advocate on behalf of my son Ethan who has milk allergy as well as our Niagara Food Allergy Parents Support Group.
How did your MP respond? What resonated with him the most? Was he aware how food allergy impacts daily living?
My MP was very honest with me; my call was the first one he has had on food allergy and anaphylaxis in his over six years of office. He has a very basic understanding of life with food allergy and was curious to hear more about the impact of poor labelling on families trying to stay safe. We also discussed how food allergy impacts life at school, in the community and at home. He took a special interest in the importance of people knowing what is in their food with up to date, easy-to-read labelling.
Do you think the conversation with your MP was a success?
I believe our conversation was a success because he offered to speak directly to Patty Hajdu, the Minister of Health, about my call and request for stronger support around improving food labelling. It was a great feeling to know that my time and call was taken seriously, and that he was willing mention food allergy to this important minister.
Why should others in the food allergy community get involved and reach out to their MP?
My MP was very clear; if as a community we wish to make food allergy a topic of conversation, then it is critical for many individuals and families all over Canada to speak to their MPs. As he said to me, “I will mention this to our health minister and she will listen, thus putting it on her radar. But can you imagine the impact it will have on her if ten MPs come to her with the same message? The more voices on this issue, the greater interest she will have in this issue.”
How do you see Food Allergy Canada’s role in the food allergy conversation with government and industry?
I’m really proud of Food Allergy Canada’s strong voice in advocating for people living with food allergy. This organization has written an excellent, evidence-based action plan, which highlights so many of the day-to-day challenges faced by families, including mine. I believe Food Allergy Canada must continue to speak up using strong, clear messaging to both enhance awareness in government and industry about their role in supporting food allergy, and also continue to tell stories about real families just like mine, in order to be as impactful as possible.
Which parts of our budget submission and National Food Allergy Action Plan resonate and mean the most to you?
Self-management enhancements including increasing awareness and training regarding the psycho-social impacts of life with food allergy, as well as community support opportunities to improve training and risk management practices in the food sector are important for my family. These two areas of the action plan really resonate with me. I find it difficult to navigate the mental health challenges that come with having a child with food allergy, both personally as an anxious parent as well as with my son’s own fear and anxiety. These challenges are noted in the budget submission. It would mean the world to us if someday we could have better trust in foodservice providers through increased training and risk management practices, so we can enjoy meals in restaurants and small shops more confidently. It would also be great to gain access to additional experts who can truly understand and counsel in food allergy anxiety.
As a support group leader, have you been involved with other advocacy initiatives with Food Allergy Canada?
This is my first opportunity to get involved in an advocacy initiative. I was pleasantly surprised how good it made me feel! I’m so glad I took the time to email and speak to my MP.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to share this message to parents with a child at risk for anaphylaxis like mine: I know how exhausting life can be, navigating daily to ensure your child is safe at home, school and in the community. If you often feel like nothing you do ‘makes a real difference’, try sending an email to your MP. It’s empowering to share your family’s story, and your lived experience is a powerful tool which can help Food Allergy Canada better support all of our families.
Thanks Pam for helping to #MakeFoodAllergyCount!
Get involved and help elevate the food allergy conversation by reaching out to your MP today. It takes 5 minutes to make your voice heard. You can use our letter template to make it even easier!
Tags: Advocacy in action, National Food Allergy Action Plan