RANDOLPH, NJ- Food allergy Awareness Week was May 11-May 16. Two Shongum moms, Heather Baxter and Meghan Stokoe, submitted a request and received a Proclamation from the governor’s office, proclaiming food allergy awareness week here in Randolph. This proclamation is now hanging at Shongum Elementary School.
“An important part of elementary education is gaining an awareness and appreciation for people from various backgrounds, abilities, and health conditions. Allergy-Awareness Week is yet another opportunity to educate Shongum students on the beauty of diversity,” said Clifford Burns , Shongum Elementary School Principal.
In 1998, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, now FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), created Food Allergy Awareness Week to educate the public about food allergies. Last year, FARE expanded Food Allergy Awareness Week to take over the entire month of May – declaring it Food Allergy Action Month.
The statistics are significant and important for any school or community to be aware of- 1 in 13 children has food allergies (that's 2 in a classroom). Also, according to FARE, every 3 minutes a food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER. Last, there was a 50 percent increase in food allergies from 1997-2007.
More statistics and information is available at www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats
“Food allergies are near and dear to my heart as my oldest son Connor in 3rd grade suffers from food allergies to all nuts, peanuts, and tree nuts, and all fish- including shellfish and sesame seeds,” said Stokoe.
“What people don't understand are the emotional effects it has on a child. So they learn to avoid "this food" for example nuts- because "this food" can potentially kill them- and always carry an EpiPen in the event you come in contact with "this food" - but "this food" is everywhere - it's in the schools, it's in the dugouts, it's present at birthday parties or bbqs, it's at restaurants you want to eat it, it's at the movie theaters, and it's on sidelines of the fields, Stokoe explained.”
“As a child, it is scary. Every day they need to think and be aware of everything around them to be safe- it's a lot to have to deal with,” expressed Stokoe.
Stokoe and Baxter along with many other Randolph families share the hopes of creating awareness. There are approximately 40 children at Shongum who have EpiPens. The hope is that others will be more mindful overtime as they pack lunchboxes and plan birthday parties.
“My role as the school nurse at Shongum is to lead the school staff in the awareness, prevention and treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions, keeping students safe at school and ready to learn, said Maureen Delanoy, School Nurse.