Founder, The Prioritized Group and Virginia Food Allergy Advocates
FoodASC Member since 2016
Please tell us about yourself and why you are interested In food allergies?
I’m wife, mom, friend, and advocate. However, my name is Kristin Osborne. I am a trained disability advocate and food allergy consultant. I am the founder of both The Prioritized Group and Virginia Food Allergy Advocates. I live in Virginia with my husband and three sons who all have life-threatening food allergies to multiple foods including wheat, dairy, egg, peanut, tree nut, shellfish and fish.
My first experience with food allergies began twenty years ago when my husband mentioned he was allergic to fish. I never gave food allergies a second thought other than to avoid seafood restaurants when we went out to eat.
Our oldest son experienced his first allergic reaction at the age of two. I fed him shrimp scampi and watched his lips and face swell with hives. Several months later, he had an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts and tree nuts.
Our middle son experienced an anaphylactic reaction to wheat, dairy and egg the day after his first birthday. We rushed to the emergency room in one of the most terrifying ambulance rides I’ve ever experienced.
Our youngest son is also allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and has encountered a handful of reactions.
Please tell us about your organization.
The Prioritized Group is an organization that advocates for persons with disabilities and food allergies. My mission is to help families bridge the gap between diagnosis and daily life.
Specifically, I work with families whose children have 504 Plans or Individualized Education Plans, (IEP) in school as well as food allergy families who are newly diagnosed.
I started my business because over the years I felt helpless juggling food allergies, Autism, asthma and ADHD in our family. I wanted someone to help me better understand our journey. I realized that many parents felt the same way. Knowing I was not alone, I enlisted in an extensive yearlong training program through the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities and graduated as a disability advocate.
Today, I help families who feel helpless by empowering them with knowledge to effectively advocate for their child.I help families who feel helpless by empowering them with knowledge to effectively advocate for their child.Click To Tweet
Describe a challenging experience you had related to food allergy and your lessons learned.
Several years ago, my son wanted to attend a new to us Vacation Bible School. I contacted the local church and spoke with the pastor regarding their food allergy practices. After talking with the pastor and church board, the pastor felt that it would be best for my son not to attend Vacation Bible School given his food allergies. I was horrified as I felt we could work together to create a safe environment for my son.
Ultimately, I chose not to pursue the issue of my son attending Vacation Bible School. The lesson learned was that despite the less than accommodating behavior exhibited toward him, I chose to help train the church to better understand food allergies. I could not walk away knowing the church’s lack of food allergy education could potentially harm a child.
Describe a rewarding experience you had related to food allergies.
As an advocate, I worked diligently and was instrumental in changing food allergy guidelines in our local public schools.
Several years ago, bus drivers in our district were not trained to recognize anaphylaxis. Knowing the lack of training and the potential for food to be eaten on the bus, I advocated for changes to our food allergy guidelines. The changes resulted in training that teach bus drivers how to recognize anaphylaxis and administer epinephrine to students that self carry.
What motivates you to do what you do?
Empowering parents to effectively advocate for their children and affect change in my community motivates me every day.
Do you have a go-to resource? If so, what is it and why is it useful?
My go to resources are (FAACT) Food Allergy Annaphylaxis Connection Team, (FARE) Food Allergy Reaearch and Education, (KFA) Kids with Food Allergies, AAN Asthma & Allergy Network.
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 our local communities recognized food allergies as a serious issue. Too many times people feel food allergies are not serious or life-threatening. When someone says they have a food allergy, believe them and ask how you can help.When someone says they have a food allergy, believe them and ask how you can help. Click To TweetThat may mean providing food free treats for a class party, or ensuring a co-worker has a safe meal when the office provides lunch for it’s employees.
What advice would you give to someone just embarking upon this journey?
You can do this! Empower yourself with information and educate your family and friends. You will encounter days on your food allergy journey that are frustrating, but know there will be many filled with positive experiences.You will encounter days on your food allergy journey that are frustrating, but know there will be many filled with positive experiences.Click To Tweet
Thank you Kristin for being part of our Member Spotlight! Have any more questions for Kristin? Ask them in the comments below.
Member Spotlight is our 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.
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This was a great interview. I’m unfamiliar with the statistics of children with food allergies in VA. I live in Philadelphia. There are about 20 districts in PA that are listed in the top 1,000 school districts. On May 16, 2017, our state governor, Tom Wolf, signed ACT NO. 2. The act amends the Public School Code, but doesn’t mandate that school districts or school bus operators enact an EpiPen policy. It just allows for policies to be enacted without the fear of civil litigation. Bus drivers or crossing guards are required to complete a state Department of Health training program and meet school district policies to administer an EpiPen.
Thanks Anne, I’m glad you liked it. I wonder if the Department of Health training includes auto-injector administration so they are at least familiar with the procedure even though not a mandate.
Not only is it important for school personnel to be trained to recognize anaphylaxis and administer epinephrine to students with food allergies, but it’s important for support staff and bus drivers as well. An anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, or any other food that a child is allergic to, can happen anywhere. Why do people assume it will happen inside the school? The scary thought is that it could happen before the child arrives.
So true, Anne! Thanks for your comment. Looks like Kristin also realized there was a problem with bus drivers not being trained and fortunately got the guidelines changed. Are the bus drivers trained in your school system?