Thank you to everyone who helped spread food allergy awareness and education during May, Food Allergy Awareness Month! Whether you shared your food allergy story virtually, posted our #FactsAndHacks campaign on social media, attended a teal lighting, or painted a fingernail teal – our collective voices have been heard by many across the country.
We would like to highlight three #FoodAllergyChampions in our community for driving food allergy awareness last month. Learn about them and their #FAAM story below!
Ysabelle is a third year kinesiology student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and a member of our Youth Advisory Panel. She decided to share her food allergy story on Instagram for Food Allergy Awareness Month. Read her inspiring story about growing up with food allergy below!
Ysabelle’s food allergy story:
Here is little me back in Kindergarten, although picture day was my least favourite, this photo was posted in my classroom and teacher’s room during my days in elementary school. Underneath my photo would be my name, current grade, and allergies. My allergies vary from peanut and tree nuts to cats and dogs, pollen, fresh fruits (oral allergy syndrome) and even the cold (cold urticaria). Growing up with allergies didn’t really bother me, but I usually felt left out when it came to birthdays and sweets. Sharing food wasn’t an option for me and some of my classmates got tired of me offering the same peanut-free granola bar. Some people with allergies, like me, have related conditions, such as asthma and eczema. When I look back at my childhood, I realize that my food allergies never seemed like an obstacle in my life. I never let them define me or keep me from my passions and aspirations.
We spoke with Ysabelle to learn more about the inspiration behind her post. Learn more below.
Is there anything you would like to add to the story you shared in your Instagram caption?
I would also like to share that after going through an anaphylactic reaction, I began to have anxiety over trying new foods as I thought there would be traces of my known allergens in them. It takes time and courage to recover from a reaction and talking to my parents about it really helped me overcome my fear of trying new foods.
You mentioned you never let food allergies keep you from pursuing your passions and aspirations. Has food allergy motivated you in achieving your goals?
My food allergies in a way have always been a spark in my motivations and aspirations in life. I have always shared an interest in healthcare, and often engaged in discussions with my allergist and family doctor. My future goal is to become a physical therapist. It is through my food allergies that I have learned that there is always room to learn. Every time I experience a good or bad situation with my allergies, I learn something from the experience. As I continue to manage my food allergies, I am able to take these experiences to better my way of life and share advice with others who have food allergy and are facing similar challenges.
What would you like the youth with food allergy to know?
Growing up with food allergy, there will be times when you feel like you cannot do certain things because of your allergy. Take a different perspective and use your obstacles as motivation to become the best version of yourself. You can even think about these obstacles as a challenge to your future goals.
What can others do to spread awareness beyond FAAM?
To spread awareness, I encourage others to follow and support the National Food Allergy Action Plan, as well as continue to ask questions that peak your curiosity. For those without food allergy, listen to friends, family members that have food allergies and share your support. Lastly, participate in awareness campaigns such as the #FactsAndHacks campaign.
Thanks Ysabelle for sharing your inspiring story and spreading awareness!
Sheila is a food allergy mom from Thunder Bay, ON. Interested in raising the profile of food allergy in her Northern Ontario community, Sheila reached out to us to submit a teal lighting request to Thunder Bay City Hall. Not only did the Thunder Bay City Hall say yes to the request, but they proclaimed May as Food Allergy Awareness Month and lit their building teal all month long! Learn more about what inspired Sheila to raise awareness in our interview with her below.
How are you impacted by food allergy? Do you or your children have food allergy?
My family was first impacted by food allergy when my daughter was 15 months old and had a reaction to tree nuts. Since then her list of food allergies has grown to include peanut, tree nuts, soy, chickpeas, beans, peas, mushrooms, and she has outgrown a fish allergy. When my son was 18 months, we suspected he had a soy allergy and at age 2, he tested positive to soy, peanut and tree nuts.
My children have never really known life without food allergy, but that does not mean that it is easy to manage or live with. Dining at a restaurant, attending school or going to a friend’s house are all things that most people wouldn’t think too much about, but with food allergy there is an added level of planning and anxiety that goes into the most basic activities.
Why did you want to organize a teal lighting in Thunder Bay? What was your goal?
The idea of a teal lighting in Thunder Bay grew from seeing how many cities across Canada and around the world were participating, and how most of them were in large, heavily populated areas. Thunder Bay is a city with a population of just over 100,000 people, located in Northwestern Ontario. Because of our distance from Southern Ontario, it sometimes feels that it takes longer for information and ideas to catch on in regard to food allergy, so raising awareness and advocating for my children has always been very important to me.
Through the years, my children have had many supportive teachers and principals who have gone out of their way to include them in activities, promote allergy awareness and ensure their safety. When I saw that other cities were spreading awareness through the Shine a teal light campaign, I wanted to take it beyond the schools in our city and try to raise awareness with the general public.
How did your community respond to the teal lighting? Are they now more aware and educated about food allergy?
Due to the COVID-19 situation, it was difficult to know how to share information about food allergy awareness month and the lighting of City Hall, so social media was used in a variety of ways to try and build awareness. I was able to contact my children’s current high school and former elementary school, and these schools were happy to share information on their Facebook pages. A photo of City Hall lit teal and a link to Thunder Bay’s website, where the proclamation of May being recognized as food allergy awareness month could be read, was posted on a local dining Facebook page. My post also included a “Thank you” to local restaurants for accommodating those with food allergy. I shared the same photo and link on my personal Facebook page, which was then shared by friends.
Most of the response to this has been very positive and I feel encouraged with the direction allergy awareness is moving in our city. Although these may seem like small steps, I believe this year’s lighting of City Hall will serve as a foundation for future opportunities to promote awareness and acceptance of food allergy.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would like to say thank you to Food Allergy Canada for the support and assistance given when I asked for help in getting Thunder Bay’s City Hall lit teal.
As a parent of two teenagers with multiple food allergies, it is encouraging to see what is being done to provide a safer and more inclusive future for our young people. I’ve seen many positive changes in the last 15 years and look forward to many more.
Thank you Sheila for sharing your story with us and spreading awareness in the Thunder Bay community!
Adley is a 9-year-old student from Toronto, ON. Passionate about advocating for those with food allergy, Adley decided to join the Paint It Teal campaign and paint his fingernail teal to spread awareness. Learn what inspired Adley to get involved and find out more about his #FAAM experience below.
Why did you decide to paint your fingernail teal?
To support those who do have food allergies and create awareness around food allergies. I wanted people to notice that I only painted one fingernail and to ask why I did that.
Did someone in your community notice your teal nail? If yes, how did they respond?
I have weekly Zoom meetings with my class at school, and another weekly Zoom online class for coding. For both of those, I talked about why I painted one fingernail teal. I told them it was a way to show support for my friends with food allergies.
They thought it was really cool and fun.
You don’t have food allergies yourself, why is it important for you to support the food allergy community?
Because it’s important to me to support my friends who do have them, and to show them that just because I don’t have food allergies, doesn’t mean I can’t help them or support them. I also like knowing new things and learning how to help others, like how to treat an allergic reaction when it happens, or how to make sure my friends don’t have an allergic reaction. Like making sure we don’t share food, or that I wash my hands after eating foods they might be allergic to.
What would you like people with food allergy to know?
That there’s lots of people like me out there that support you and want to understand how to help you with your food allergies.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I really like all the webinars I’ve watched with Kyle Dine and Thomas Miles!! I think it’s actually really cool to have food allergies – Kyle and Thomas do so much and don’t let their food allergies hold them back! I want to be like them when I grow up!
Thanks Adley for spreading awareness in your community!
Tags: #FoodAllergyChampions, Food Allergy Awareness Month, from the community, Youth Advisory Panel