The Power of Words
Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Having to live with food allergies is probably the hardest thing I have to deal with on a day to day basis. It’s really a difficult thing to manage, especially when other people don’t understand it. What I’ve found is that by educating myself about my food allergies, it creates a safer space for me and the people around me. However, that hasn’t exactly solved any major problems like finding a cure. Throughout my life, I’ve learned that words are very powerful things and they can deeply affect a person, so it would make sense that the way I feel that I can best overcome my fears around my food allergies is with words. Whether it’s speaking out or writing a letter, that is what has changed my fears around my food allergy the most.
Over the past year, I was lucky enough to participate in a group by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) called TAG. TAG (Teen Allergy Group) is a group of teens and young adults with food allergies that support other people with food allergies. Being a part of this has led to many great experiences for me, such as being a part of leading a Food Allergy Heroes walk near my hometown a few months ago. This was great because I got to answer a lot of questions for other people who have (or know someone with) food allergies, and it felt really good to use my knowledge to help others. After reflecting on this experience I realized that even though my actions were small, I had made a difference by helping those people who had asked me questions. Even though it was only a few people in the allergy community, it was a few people who had learned something more than they had known before and that made me feel really good about myself.
While helping out at the Food Allergy heroes walk was a bit of a smaller thing, I’ve been lucky enough to have an opportunity recently that was a lot bigger and has definitely impacted me as an advocate for food allergy awareness and rights. Back in November my mom and I got a call from the Wall Street Journal asking if they could interview us about sesame and the Food Labeling Modernization Act. If passed, the Food Labeling Modernization Act would make it so that labeling sesame as “sesame” on food packaging would be required. At the moment sesame is not required to be labeled on food packaging, instead it can hide under things like “natural flavors”, “spices”, benne seed, gingelly oil, etc. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) would make sesame allergen information included on labels of non-packaged foods sold at retail as well. I initially felt really excited because I knew that this was a big opportunity, but I was also really nervous because I had never done anything like this before! Of course, we said yes and the week after we were on the phone being interviewed. The reporter who interviewed us, Sumathi Reddy, was really amazing and asked a lot of great questions. Although I had spent a lot of time preparing before, I was still nervous but it turned into almost a conversation after a while. While it seemed like it was just a call, I knew that it was really important and that it could help get this act passed that would change my life for the better and make it a lot easier. Looking back on it, I’m still a bit shocked that I got this opportunity, but after reading the article it makes me even more glad I did it because hopefully this will positively affect if the act gets passed!
However I have done something more recently, even though November isn’t too far back. Due to the fact that my family and I have been trying really hard to get the Food Labeling Modernization Act passed, we decided to take it to the next level. My mother has seen one of our congressmen around town frequently, but it wasn’t until one day at an airport when she asked if she could set up a meeting with him to discuss the labeling act. So last Friday after school, we drove down to his office and met with him for half an hour, discussing the act and why it would help if it was passed. He offered some amazing ideas and potential solutions and it made me feel really excited and happy that I had done something that I knew could potentially greatly help the food allergy community, especially those with sesame allergies.
In conclusion, doing things like this makes me feel like I’m really helping the food allergy community and I’ve found out that they’re actually fairly easy to do, really anyone can help!
Read the Wall Street Journal article I was interviewed in here.