Food Allergy Smart

Preparing for a trip to the Discovery Center with our family probably looks a little different than most. After we put on our coats and shoes we also have to do one last check to make sure we have our wipes, EpiPens, and safe snacks. You probably guessed it; we are a food allergy family.

We have not one, but two young children with life-threatening food allergies. While it is not the norm to have food allergies, and rarer still to have two kids with them, the number of people with food allergies is growing at an alarming rate. According to FARE, Food Allergy Research & Education, “up to 15 million Americans have food allergies.” Also, FARE estimates that food allergies, “affect 1 in every 13 children in the U.S.”

Traveling, even in town, with our family requires extra research and preparation. We ask many questions and think through any possible scenarios that might present an issue. Is food served where we are going? If so, are our allergens present? Are there designated areas for eating? Is the place we are visiting well maintained? What is the food allergy knowledge of the staff? Basically, is the place we are visiting “food allergy smart”. It is impossible for any location to be completely safe for someone with food allergies. Even if there is no food served, others may bring food with them that contains allergens, or allergens can remain on unwashed hands or belongings. Letting our guard down is not an option, however; places like the Discovery Center, that take deliberate measures to make their facility “food allergy smart”, help families like ours in many important ways.

For a location to be “food allergy smart”, the staff needs to be well informed about food allergies. Training should be in place to understand what a food allergy is (an overreaction of the immune system), both the mild and serious forms that a reaction can take (from rash or nausea, to anaphylaxis), and how reactions can occur (by ingestion, touch, or sometimes, inhalation). Having this basic information helps facilities examine where risks to people with food allergies exist and how to reduce or eliminate those risks.

At the Discovery Center, the staff is routinely trained about food allergies. The Discovery Center also asks visitors not to eat in the exhibit areas, instead offering designated areas for eating and food programs. The staff at the Discovery Center cleans the exhibits multiple times a day. In addition, the Discovery Center has taken steps to eliminate the foods most commonly responsible for causing serious reactions from its programs, such as Snack Attack, and retail area.

While we are always cautious when it comes to our family’s food allergies, we are so appreciative of the steps that the Discovery Center takes to help keep our kids safe. Both of our children love the Discovery Center. They always have fun and learn something new when we visit. Because we know the Discovery Center is “food allergy smart”, we love it too!

Go teal for an allergy smart Halloween!

Learn about the Teal Pumpkin program.

Ideas for Non-food Treats  from Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).

Available at dollar stores, party supply stores, or online shops, these low-cost items can be purchased and handed out to all trick-or-treaters, or made available in a separate bowl from candy if you choose to hand out both options. Nearly all of these items can be found in a Halloween theme or festive colors.

  • Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
  • Pencils, pens, crayons or markers
  • Bubbles
  • Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
  • Mini Slinkies
  • Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
  • Bouncy balls
  • Finger puppets or novelty toys
  • Coins
  • Spider rings
  • Vampire fangs
  • Mini notepads
  • Playing cards
  • Bookmarks
  • Stickers
  • Stencils

By guest blogger Jessica N., Mom of two fabulous kids with food allergies.

Youth Council

2015 Applications Now Available!

We are a research group of students, ages 10-16,  dedicated to the improvement of the Discovery Center through innovative ideas to attract all age groups with a fun, entertaining, hands-on experience.

Click here for more information or to apply!