With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

07 April 2009

Meet The Food Allergy Assistant

"The Food Allergy Assistant is for all who care about someone with a food allergy." Those words are from the Food Allergy Assistant website and I cannot say it better myself. The Food Allergy Assistant website and blog are replete with helpful information on living with food allergies with a special emphasis on promoting awareness among friends and family of food allergic individuals. A mother of a child with multiple food allergies, Joanne has a strong presence in the online food allergy community, writing on her blog and also for other sites, such as peanutallergy.com. We had a chance to get to know her a bit better and invite you to as well! Thanks, Joanne!

What is your food allergy background?  (Who has food allergies, how did you find out, etc)
I don't think I knew anyone with a food allergy when I was growing up. I was clueless about the topic.  My second child began developing mysterious rashes, hives, and eczema when he was just a few weeks old.  The pediatrician was not helpful.  She gave us steroid creams for the eczema and threw around words like 'infant asthma" and "atopic dermatitis".  When he began solid foods and became red and itchy around his mouth, I wondered about food allergies.  Still the pediatrician did not think he needed to see an allergist.  Fortunately we took him anyway and changed pediatricians.  Skin tests results revealed severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, oats, soy and wheat.  We didn't know where to begin- starting with what to feed him for dinner that night.

It took months of research.  We had learn how to cook and bake differently, how to use an Epi-Pen and where to locate resources for foods and products we needed.  The Internet has come a long way.  Eight years ago there wasn't much information out there.

What are you passionate about in the food allergy field?
I think food allergy education is so important.  There is a great deal of information out there now for parents and for those with food allergies.  I want to focus on those who know someone with food allergies- grandparents, other relatives, schools, coaches, neighbors, restaurants.  Often they are confused about what people with food allergies want and need.  I created my website with that in mind.  My site is for the grandmother who wants to bake a birthday cake  for her milk, egg and peanut allergic grandson.  It's for the teacher who has a child with food allergies in his class and wants to learn more about it.  I hope to publish a book directed to this population.
What else are you working on in the food allergy area?
I write a food allergy blog and I maintain a website under the name, Food Allergy Assistant.  I can be found on Twitter  as well.  I write for PeanutAllergy.com and Suite 101.com (food allergy articles and some other stuff, like travel and home decor).

I also keep up with state and federal legislation as it relates to food allergies.  I'm hopeful about the newest federal bill, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2009.  We must all work to get this passed to help our food allergic kids.
What are your favorite food allergy friendly food staples?
Carol Fenster's Special Diet Solutions was such a help when my son had so many food allergies.  In the years following the initial diagnosis, he outgrew all allergies except dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut.  At that point, Linda Coss's books were a lifesaver.  I also love Toaster bags for traveling and the Epi-Pen carrier my son wears to school.
What did you do before life with food allergies?
I have a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Arcadia University.  I worked as an employee assistance professional for several years counseling individuals, couples and families.  I also  presented trainings for client companies  on topics like stress management, time management, appropriate humor in the workplace (always a fun one!). 

I threw myself into motherhood when my first child was born and started wearing many hats including playgroup organizer, carpool driver, volunteer, PTO president, and now, writer. 
What are some of your other interests/hobbies?
I've come to enjoy cooking and baking- thank goodness since I seem to spend my life in the kitchen!  I love to read and have been part of a book club for over 10 years.  I also belong to a Writer's Critique group and I'm a student at the Institute for Children's Literature. I continue to volunteer a lot in my kids' schools and I'll be PTO president again next year at our middle school. I catch up on Oprah every morning when I walk on the treadmill and I love to take hikes and vacation with my family.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the great interview!

Unknown said...

I should be thanking you! I am sure I found your site before I even began blogging! There's such a wealth of information there and I really love your focus on educating family and friends, which is so critically important.