Did you know there’s an entire website dedicated to cataloging quirky “National Days.” From National Poem in Your Pocket Day” (It’s April 27th, by the way) to “National Mason Jar Day” (November 30th), you can find a day for just about anything. Some of them are fun. (Did you hear the one about “National Tell a Joke Day”?) Some challenge us to raise our awareness about important issues. The latter is what we need to talk about today.
Did you know that May is National Food Allergy Awareness Month? The week of May 14-20th is specifically set aside to educate others about food allergies and to share our stories.
Let’s Proclaim It!
Advocacy groups like FARE, FAACT, and others do a great job at getting word out about Food Allergy Awareness Month and Food Allergy Awareness Week. That doesn’t mean everyone gets the word, however. Start by submitting a request for a proclamation from your state’s governor. (FARE has a page to get you started: Proclamation Request.) Don’t wait for the big week. Send that request in now.
Tell Your Story
Storytelling is powerful. One in ten adults and one in thirteen children have food allergies. In the US, that’s roughly 32 million people. And yet there are people who don’t realize they know someone with allergies or how serious those allergies can be. Use your social media feeds to tell folks about your family. Ask your child’s teacher if your child can share their story with the class – depending on your child’s comfort level you can assist or take lead with the presentation. Ask for time to share your story at extracurriculars like Scouts or sports teams. Make it personal.
It’s harder to be dismissive when your choices to ignore requested accommodations impact someone you care about. It’s hard to be dismissive when you’re looking in the eyes of a person that experienced a life-threatening reaction to a small bite of food.
Let’s Talk About That Story
First, and most importantly, know your audience and adapt what you’re sharing accordingly. It should always be age-appropriate and reveal as much detail as you AND your audience are ready for. You might be more open about the fear or anger you felt when your child was first diagnosed with that group of parents that you first met 10 years ago when your child was a newborn than with a room full of folks you barely know at the PTO meeting.
Second, keep your story tight – be personable but be concise. Did you know that the average human has a shorter attention span than a goldfish. (And if you’re wondering, a goldfish has a very short attention span of about 9 seconds.) Sure, we can sit and focus on longer segments if we’re engaged, but you’ve got maybe 8 good seconds to capture someone’s attention before they’ve wandered off to the next thing.
See Teal. Share Teal.
Although nothing’s been announced yet, previous years have seen the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls, and other landmarks light up in teal during Food Allergy Awareness Week. If you are in an area with a teal-lit site, snap a photo and share it. If you’re not able to snap your own photo, be sure to share the posts of others! Explain in your post that these spaces are lit teal to help spark conversation and raise awareness about food allergies, and then tell your story.
Raising awareness means potentially raising questions and that’s a good thing. You don’t need all the answers, but you should have a few reliable resources you can refer to get the correct responses. Advocacy groups like FARE and FAACT are good places to start. Also add ACAAI and AAAAI to your list of go-to places. Let the person you’re speaking with know you’re going to turn to the pros to find an accurate response and then share links with them so they can do their own digging if they want even more info.