Walk raises food allergy awareness

Hundreds gathered at the Tempe Center for the Arts Saturday morning to participate in the first annual Food Allergy Awareness Walk in Tempe.

An ASU allergy support group, along with the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, a nationwide group that raises funding for food allergy research, hosted the event to raise awareness about food allergies in youths, including college students.

Participants walked around the Tempe Town Lake path.  Individuals and organizations sponsored specific walkers, and the event itself was sponsored by several local and national organizations.

Proceeds from the event went to funding research to help find a cure for food allergies.

Event organizer Food Allergy Talk at ASU acts as a support group where students with food allergies can meet and exchange tips and recipes to help make life with allergies easier, vice president Paige Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg, an exploratory freshman, said students with food allergies must be careful because college campuses do not always provide allergy-safe menus. She added that the club is taking steps to try to get ASU’s student meal offerings more friendly to students with food allergies.

“We’re trying to get the cafeterias at ASU more aware of people with food allergies so that some of us can actually eat in the cafeterias,” Rosenberg said.

Eating food is not all that students have to worry about, Rosenberg said. Some people with severe food allergies can have reactions just by being near the food to which they are allergic.

“Some people have airborne allergies,” Rosenberg said. “Those with extreme peanut allergies can actually have a reaction from something they smell.”

Though Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network has hosted 52 food walks in the U.S. this year, this was the first walk for the Tempe area, said  Veronica Braun, west coast regional coordinator for FAAN.

Braun said more than 25 million people in the country have a form of food allergies, and 3 million of those are children. The most prominent allergy in children is peanut allergies, which can lead to fatal reactions.

Though the event was designed to raise awareness and benefit younger people — with clowns, a moon bounce and other events geared toward children — Braun said food allergies, especially to shellfish, are increasing in the adult population as well.

“It’s just becoming an increasing phenomenon,” Braun said. “It’s one of those things that [researchers] need to discover — why people are getting allergies that they never had before.”

Canadian musician Kyle Dine performed at the event. Dine is a children’s music artist who writes and performs songs exclusively about allergies to educate young children about their conditions.

Though allergies are usually looked at for the negative way they can change someone’s life, Dine said he tries to focus his songs — with titles like “Food Allergies Rock” — to show the positive side of having food allergies.

“You hear a lot in the media about the fatalities,” Dine said. “There’s been a lot of things in my life I’ve found have benefited me as far as allergies.”

Dine said his allergies made him a lot more aware of his health and dieting habits growing up, and that reading ingredients lists and always having to keep track of their medicine can help teach children responsibility and maturity at a very young age.

“A lot of kids you see with allergies are quite responsible very young,” Dine said.

Reach the reporter at michael.reppenhagen@asu.edu

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