October 5, 2011

Mireille Schwartz and BAAAB Present Allergy-Safe Treats List For Halloween

We all want what's best for our food allergic children.  Even more than keeping them safe on a daily basis, we do everything in our power to help them live extraordinary lives.  It's a full-time job.  Mireille Schwartz, a pioneer in food allergy education, awareness, and treatment, has taken on this job --not only for her own child, but for food allergic children everywhere. 

Mireille Schwartz founded the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board as a personal mission inspired by her peanut-allergic daughter.  Since 2007 the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board has striven to promote education, awareness, and provide advocacy as well as no-cost medical care and medication to Bay Area families with severely allergic children.

Mireille Schwartz in Allergic Living Magazine

Mireille is also a member of the National Board of Directors for Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), the world’s largest leading non-profit allergy resource.  She is an expert contributor to CNN Health, a regular columnist in Allergic Living Magazine, and a motivational and keynote speaker at allergy events nationwide.  Mireille has earned countless awards and honors for her commitment to serving the food allergy community.

We are thrilled and honored to have such an influential advocate for food allergy awareness speak at our Food Allergies Rock event Read a little about Mireille's journey in our Get Allergy Wise pre-event interview:

Get Allergy Wise (GAW):  What was it like for you growing up with food allergies?  
Mireille Schwartz (MS):  I was born severely allergic to seafood.  So living with food allergies is all I've ever known!  There's no other reality for me, but luckily I was quick to adapt and have been my own best food allergy advocate since a very, very young age. 

GAW:  How has your daughter's peanut allergy changed your life?  
MS:  It's taught me to see food allergy through a completely different perspective and filter.  For me growing up it was always this very matter-of-fact, "You have food allergies, period." lifestyle.  Not many of my peers or family knew a lot about food allergy...or cared.  I largely suffered alone and wasn't too vocal about the predicament.  However, I gained a deep sense of compassion for my FA tribe as I held my daughter's hand through this process with her!  I see it now as much more of an emotional hurdle to contend with at birthday parties and celebrations, to not have the ability to easily enjoy all foods with gusto.  The profile of food allergy has changed dramatically over the past decade and become 'mainstream' within my daughter's era.  So now there are all sorts of forums for FA people to share their struggles and hurdles, to laugh it out and cry it out.  I love that.

GAW:  How have people responded to BAAAB's mission?  
MS:  The overwhelming positive support has been incredible.  Bay Area people have been above and beyond flexible and amenable: a great example is a dialogue I was in with Woodside International High School in San Francisco.  They're an amazing facility and were striving to come up with an "allergy-aware" vending machine solution for students.  After partnering with John & Ariel Edwards at the school, we not only developed a list of awesome, yummy alternative vending machine items, but they even wiped down the entire interior of the machine in order to take that extra step to ensure no cross-contamination.  Intelligent, sensible, stellar!

GAW:  Where do you see BAAAB in 10 years?  
MS:  My hope has always been for others across the country to develop their own hometown model of BAAAB; in ten years I would love to see Allergy Boards comprised of doctors and allergy experts deep in the trenches personally reaching out and assisting families in every major city -- at no-cost -- all around them.

GAW:  When your daughter was younger, how did you safely celebrate Halloween?  What are you and your daughter's plans for Halloween this year?  
MS:  Every year we host a huge Allergy-Free clear tent in our neighborhood with an absolutely "come one, come all" attitude!  We identify the tent with a gigantic sign so it's clear, even from a good distance, that it's a safe zone.  I began this years ago when my daughter was very little so she didn't feel she was missing out on a rollicking Halloween experience.  Since the tent is clear you can enjoy all the spooky sights and sounds around you, yet relax in the safety of an allergen-free space.

Mireille has such an infectious optimism and incredible vision for the future of food allergic living that we can't help but hold onto her every word.  If you're like us, be sure to tune into Beyond the Headlines on ABC7 this Sunday, October 9 at 10:00 am.  Cheryl Jennings interviews Mireille Schwartz and a select few handpicked experts regarding the impact of food allergies on our Bay Area community - with insightful, surprising answers.

Annual Safe Halloween Candy List featuring Mireille's daughter Charlotte & friend Elijah
AND make sure to check out (and pass along to classmates, friends, and family) BAAAB's Annual Halloween Safe Candy List, which has been checked and rechecked (and re-checked!) with each and every manufacturer to ensure the lists and labels are up-to-date. 

After all, food allergy parents (creative and resourceful as we may be) could use a little help once in awhile.  Whether it's a safe candy list or a portal for allergy awareness, education, and medical care, it's nice to know that we're not alone.

Thanks so much, Mireille and BAAAB, and we'll see everyone on November 6th!

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