Food allergy awareness is important for so many reasons. But what does it really mean? There are many facets: social awareness, physical awareness, factual awareness, the awareness of those with food allergies and the awareness of those without. Many of us food allergy mamas have been focused on increasing the awareness of those without food allergies. But we can’t forget about ourselves, and especially our children. Increased awareness really is key for all of us.
I’m hoping to help increase awareness with my children’s book, HumFree the Bee Has a Food Allergy. It‘s a story about hope, empowerment, awareness, inclusion and being able to do what we love while staying safe. It’s a tale about a cute little bee with a very big message.
I hope HumFree’s story will inspire and engage our kids. I wanted to share additional elements of the book that I hope will help.
HumFree’s Food Allergy “Bee” Offers Q&A to Kick-Start Dialogue
In particular, there are questions and answers at the end of the book entitled “HumFree’s Food Allergy Bee” that I hope will kick-start this important dialogue about food allergy awareness and education.
I hope HumFree’s Q&A will help parents, caregivers, teachers and friends begin those important conversations that will engage and inspire our children.
Even if you don’t have food allergies in your family or circle of friends, learning about food allergies and being part of this dialogue is so important.
Unfortunately, food allergies are on the rise. There is no cure. As HumFree says in his Q&A, about 15 million Americans, including 5.9 MILLION CHILDREN, have food allergies. This means about 1 in every 13 kids, or 2 children in every classroom, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) statistics. So even if your child doesn’t have food allergies, it is likely one of their friends or classmates do.
The “top eight” food allergens are cow’s milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nut, shellfish and fish–but anything can be an allergen.
The sneaky thing about food allergies is that something seemingly harmless like milk–or in my case, apples!–can be viewed as a threat to our bodies, which then trigger dangerous reactions to get rid of the invader. That’s what can be difficult to grasp.
Fostering Awareness: Think A-E-I-O-U
It was two years ago when I started thinking about awareness in terms of the A-E-I-O-U vowels. It all started when my family and I participated in one of FARE’s food allergy walks (and we will again this fall!). My son couldn’t believe how many children were at the walk, “just like him.”
You see, I’d been so focused on making sure our family and friends understood his food allergies that I wasn’t tuned into the awareness of the most important person in our food allergy circle: our dear son. (See the story here.)
We may forget that we need to check in with our little ones and make sure they still get it too. Sure, they have the food allergies, but do they see the big picture? Do they understand they aren’t alone?
The first time my son attended FARE’s walk was the eye-opener–the turning point–for him and for us. ALL of these kids and families have food allergies? He couldn’t believe it. I didn’t realize he didn’t realize.
We really have to try to see through our children’s eyes, minds and hearts. The walk and that moment of awareness got me thinking about what awareness really means. It’s one reason I’m so passionate about children’s books; I think they are wonderful tools for reaching and teaching our children.
So I framed HumFree’s Q&A with A-E-I-O-U vowel categories–Awareness, Education, Inclusion, Outreach and Understanding, which really sum it up for me. Along with this Q&A, HumFree imparts his own little rhymes of advice!
We all play a role!
We all need to be ready to help if someone is having an allergic reaction. The first step toward being ready is understanding what a food allergy is and that we all play a role in keeping our friends safe.
I hope HumFree’s story begins the dialogue about food allergies and awareness, and his Q&A continues it.
As the back-to-school season gets underway, I’ve seen a gap in awareness even between food allergy parents, as disagreements escalate about what safety measures to take at school according to our different food allergies.
I hope we can try to be more aware and empathize with one another. Trying to understand one another and work together is so key. Isn’t our advocacy challenging enough?
At the heart of it, I think it’s all about awareness: The awareness of our children with food allergies. The awareness of our friends without. Our own awareness. Don’t you?
I hope you enjoy HumFree’s story and find his “food allergy bee” helpful. I’m continuing to add to the Q&A and will have print-outs when I visit libraries and schools. I’d love to receive your feedback and hear what else you’d like to see! You can learn more and order a copy of HumFree the Bee on Amazon!