Co-Founder Navigating Food Allergies, Support Group Leader NNMG and most importantly mom.
FoodASC Member since 2017
Please tell us about yourself and why you are interested in food allergies.
I am a mom of an 8 year old boy who has multiple food allergies. I am the co-founder of Navigating Food Allergies and a Support Group Leader. I spend time in my school district advocating and within my local community.
My interest in advocating and educating began when my son was 20 months old and was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies. It became more prominent when he began school. The exclusion and bullying factors hit me so hard emotionally that I could not just stand back and not educate to make a safer environment for all children with LTFA.
Please tell us about your website and business.
Navigating Food Allergies was founded by myself and Cari Gelber. Two Food Allergy moms. We decided to create a site to help those navigating life with food allergies. We wanted to share content, resources, brands and help to uplift people through their journeys. I am a support group leader as well, I have fundraisers and community events. I am working now on some other projects that include a new website, book and an organization to help food banks stock food for those with LTFA.
Describe a challenging experience you had related to food and your lessons learned.
One of the most challenging experiences for during this journey, has been dealing with my son’s anxiety. It is not a constant which I am thankful for, however mild reactions and events can trigger it. It’s truly heartbreaking to me to see these little ones be challenged with worry of losing their life to food.
My son had a recent mild reaction from cross contamination. Two days later at school he began to have a hypersensitivity to the smell of peanut butter. This was so real and strong for him that he began to see spots, get dizzy, weak and almost pass out. The words from him that were the hardest for me were “Mom I was so scared and I felt so alone”. I have always had a great support network of my doctors and nurses and managing his anxiety. Now I am introducing mindfulness and meditation for him. I am also including some empowering techniques about “what he has control over” These seem to be working and keeping him in a good spot mentally.
Describe a rewarding experience you had related to food allergies.
One of the most rewarding experiences I have had recently and in the past is when I do food allergy awareness in my son’s school. The children are so incredibly receptive and want to know more! They truly care about keeping their friends safe and knowing how they can do that. Their questions are knowledgeable and meaningful. Children want to learn and they are wonderful support for our food allergy kids.
What motivates you to do what you do?
Without a doubt my son. He is my why. Children are innocent and precious and keeping them all as safe as we can is one of my main priorities. Advocating and educating the public is so important in my mission to accomplish this goal.
Do you have a go-to resource? If so, what is it and why is it useful?
The Food Allergy & Anaphylactic Connection Team is my go to resource. They have wonderful resources for schools and events. They are a supportive team of advocates working closely within all communities. I love that their mission provides for real life families, especially Camp Tag, truly the best experience my son and I have ever had.
What do you wish other people knew about food allergies and what’s one action that can be performed to increase knowledge and awareness in the general population?
I wish that others knew how serious and life threatening food allergies can be. Our children are like every other child, they want to be included and safe. It’s really so simple and it baffles me how some do not wish to comprehend this. One of my favorite examples is, we don’t make the children in wheelchairs sit outside school, we build ramps so they can be included. That’s all we want for our children is a “ramp” so they are included. Just because their disability is hidden doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be accommodated.
I believe with positive advocacy and education is how we accomplish this goal. Showing others that our children are just like theirs except they have food allergies. We must continue to educate and advocate the ones who want to open their minds and learn. Little by little we will make an impact.
What advice would you give to someone just embarking upon this journey?
I would tell them first to breathe. Then I would want them to know that it will be ok, you can do this and this is a journey not a destination.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
I want everyone to know that we are all in this together. Together we are stronger and together we can make a difference!
Thank you Pamela for being part of our Member Spotlight! Have any more questions for Pamela? Ask them in the comments below.
Member Spotlight is our new monthly column in which we interview FoodASC members to highlight their businesses, publications and personal experiences. If you are interested in being featured or nominating another member for the spotlight, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donna DeCosta, Founder FoodASC.com
New to FoodASC?
Don’t miss out on future articles! Join the community today.