Time to Wear Teal!

Time to Wear Teal!

By Emery Gewirtz, FAACT Teen Advisory Council Member
Allergic to dairy, fish, and shellfish         

Pretty soon my wardrobe will consist of a lot of teal. Yes, of course, I mean that I will be sporting the official color of Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) — TEAL! And though nothing changes exactly for those of us with food allergies, a lot of us make an extra effort to make the not-so-food-allergy-aware folks around us open their eyes a bit. This year our community will be banding together May 11 through 17, spreading the word about our very real and serious food allergies!

Being a teen during this week is different because it is no longer a time where your parents do your advocating for you. High schools, especially, usually aren’t going to go out of their way to make a statement about it either. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In my opinion, it drives me to want to convey the message of FAAW myself! Last year, I printed and hung flyers in my school simply mentioning it was FAAW (pre-approved by my school’s administration, of course). Truly it was well received, and this year I hope to print some out with “fast facts” concerning food allergies. I can guarantee people will stop and look, and hopefully people will ask questions.

Questions are truly what this week needs to be about. So make sure you’re open to them and can provide information when asked! When people are curious, we can provide the answers they need and further educate them, enabling them to inform others. With our combined efforts, we can make the world more AWARE. However, it doesn’t need to all be so serious. Have some fun! Being a girl, I often paint my nails teal or wear a teal ribbon to promote this week. Believe me when I say that people notice these things – and what a way to start talking about food allergies!

The best way to look at this year’s FAAW is as an extra motivating week of self-advocating, because when the people around you know what food allergies are, you can only feel safer and more secure. If you don’t want to handle this task alone, try talking to someone else in your class with a food allergy. If there isn’t anyone, grab one of your buddies who understands food allergies and is willing to help make others aware. Also, in the age of social media… tweet about it! Instagram the FAAW ribbon! Change your profile on Facebook! Ask your friends to do the same – and in no time you will have created your own network of people advocating for you and anyone else with a food allergy. The more you do, the greater the chances someone, somewhere will begin to ask questions. If you are having trouble figuring out other ideas, be sure to visit FAACT’s Food Allergy Awareness Week page on how you can get involved and spread awareness.

Finally, just remember that even the tiniest act during FAAW could make a difference. At the end of the week, even if only one person has a better understanding of food allergies, you’ve accomplished an important goal. What you do is not a solo act: You’ve got 15 million others supporting you. Go TEAL!