Friday, June 15, 2018

Don't Go Nuts, It's A Re-Launch


Do you remember the first time that you found a product that you thought actually tasted good and your kids like them too?I do. But I am a mom so I may be biased. Moms remember weird things that may not seem relevant to some but for us, all of those little details are important. Our mom brains suck in all of the information that may save us time and energy in the future so for us, it's like a mental superpower. I first saw the Don't Go Nuts products at the 2014 Food Allergy Blogger Conference. They handed them out and honestly, there were so many samples that I tucked it into my take home bag (Nothing personal Don't Go Nuts people). In the midst of unpacking and sorting safe goodies, NutriDaughter pulled a bar out and asked if she could have it. She has raved about them ever since.

Flash forward four years to now: I was asked to try their new re-launched bars Gorilla Power, Whitewater Chomp and Blueberry Blast that are now USDA certified organic and the Blueberry Blast flavor was reinvented. Did I have to fend off greedy little hands when the boxes arrived? Yes. (Well....not so little anymore but that's another story). NutriDaughter was ripping open the boxes, she was there when I turned around and you can bet her hand was out as soon as I took a bar out of the box. Not that I teased her but.... yeah, I teased her.

Whitewater Chomp bars - these were interesting as I almost taste a hint of a peanut butter-like taste (which, of course, is impossible). Other than that, they taste like a typical crispy bar but slightly chewier which is good, so no cracked or chipped teeth from biting into something rock hard. I can't be the only one who passes on ultra-crunchy granola bars, can I? As you can see, they were a hit at the local pool. Anything grab and pack is a good thing. Not to mention, most of us budget and bringing a snack versus purchasing a snack is (almost) always cheaper.

The Gorilla Power bars have chocolate chips in them so I may be just a little biased as I am a definite chocolate lover. Pair it with chocolate, I was off to a great start. There is a slight taste of coconut in these bars. There is a good balance of chocolate- not too much, not too little. Nothing worse than skimpy chocolate, right?! And I did not notice any chocolate leakage....ok, that may sound icky and unappetizing but (again) as a mom, I am pro-clean, finger-licking snacks vs. anything that leaves smudges on clothing and towels and anything else that is touched during the snacking event. Those are snacks I avoid. Those are snacks that mess up my white towels and make me not want to buy them.

The final bar I got to try was the Blueberry Blast. For some reason, I found it to be chewy with just a little bit of crunch...maybe it was the same on the others, not sure. To me, it tasted like a blueberry cookie in bar form ( a positive). Overall, a good little granola bar that I would definitely eat again. Sometimes when you need something sweet, a bar that has some heartier ingredients are better than a cookie.

What I liked When I read the ingredients, multiple words organic. Every single ingredient starts with organic. This is a huge plus for me- I really feel that the more organic foods we use, the better. The texture was good and the consistency was good (not dry, not too gooey, no weird chalky aftertaste). I liked the size because, although one may argue the bar size could be a tad larger, they are actually pretty filling.

What I wish was a bit different Dear Don't Go Nuts people, let me say first that I like your products and I truly appreciate that you asked me to try these out. This being said, my wish list of things for you to maybe consider 1) I found the bars to be a little too sweet/sugary 2) Any thoughts of looking into a facility that does not also process dairy 3) any thoughts of (trying) a dairy free bar for those that contain dairy? I wouldn't suggest these things if I didn't wish more people could also enjoy your bars.

Regardless of my wish list, try them (as long as the ingredients are safe for you). They are a good little bar! You can find Don't Go Nuts on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (Ugh, how did I not know this?!), Instagram and YouTube. They also have a handy dandy store locator here or just look for their adorable logo. Hugs to Don't Go Nuts for thinking of me and sending me the samples!







*As always, no payment accepted for the product review except for the products themselves as my opinion is always my own.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Gluten Free Ticket Giveaway

I am an event geek, plain and simple. I love meeting people, vendors and allergy-friendly products, hearing presentations and the samples....I admittedly hoard samples. But why? For those of you who have never been to an event that caters to those with food allergies, let me show you my world of blogging, eating and product hoarding (I say hoard but it's really taking new product home to try them, stashing some for future sharing and giveaways and a few..well, more than a few for my family). Picture this and then join me on June 2nd at the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. You will notice the handy dandy giveaway link below because I have six tickets to giveaway to entice you even more.


Get Your Swag On Did I mention the swag? Wait...you don't know what swag is?! Ok, swag is a bag of free samples that you get when you check in at the event. So for a very budget-friendly Saturday ($10 adults, Children under 13 FREE and $8 for Seniors & Military with ID at the door) you immediately get a nice bag of goodies that you will also use to place other samples or items that you can purchase at the event. How is this sounding to you so far? Think about it- going to an event where you can bring the entire family, get free stuff, sample and eat while you walk through and find out about products that you may not even know existed. I'd say it's a win-win. Here's what you need to know-
June 2nd 2018
10 Am - 3 PM
Home & Garden Building
421 27th Street NW
Winston-Salem, NC 27105

Why Am I So Excited About This Event? Although I am an event geek, I am also picky about not wanting to travel too far so when I heard that this year's Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event is going to be in my hometown of Winston-Salem I felt like an event geek gone to heaven! Grab a pen and paper (ugh, it's the year 2018 Nutrimom nobody except you still writes things down!) or take a screenshot then visit the official website for complete details. I recommend that you consider ordering your tickets online to avoid standing in long line the day of the event. Event geek tip: long lines means you will not be one of the first to get the vendor samples and if you have kids, they don't like to wait either...just saying. OR chance it, enter my ticket giveaway below and see if you get a free ticket before you purchase them. Either way, I know all of the vendors will be excited to see you and speak with you.


Did I Mention That I Am Sharing Too? Not only am I honored to be a part of the event blogger team again but I will also have a vendor table and I will be presenting at this event. You may say How the heck are you going to do all of this Nutrimom and why? Simple- because I love sharing. I blog about the event because I want everyone to know why they should be there to learn more and stress less. I will have a vendor table because I love meeting everyone in person, I love sharing and I love helping. My table will offer information about me, what I do, how to order my ebook The Stepping Stones To Food Allergies and samples supplied by some of my favorite companies and products who also love to share. Samples will include SunButter, back issues of Gluten Free & More Magazine, MadeGood FoodsThe Greater Knead, free2b Foods SunCups, full size SeaBuckWonders facial cleanser and TummyDrops (thanks to all of the wonderful companies who sent product to share!) I will be presenting at 12:30 - 1:00 PM "Food Allergies: Going Beyond the Box" because I want to show everyone that allergy-friendly products are more than just as directed on the box (I'd give you a hint but I think you should come by and sit in on it for the full effect).

Ready To Enter For A Chance to Win Tickets?!
There are just a few rules I need you to read but then click away. Don't forget to share with others...maybe if they win, they will give you some of their swag.
  • My Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event ticket giveaway will begin on Tuesday May 22nd and end at Midnight Thursday May 24th EST 
  • Entries will be through Rafflecopter but sharing this blog link is always appreciated
  • None of anyone's entry information will be shared, spammed or sold because that is never what I am about
  • 6 Tickets (3 people will each get 2 entry tickets) will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter
  • Winners MUST be attending the Winston-Salem Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event
  • Tickets are non transferable
  • Winners will be notified via email and will pick up their tickets at the event at the Will Call booth (yay, no standing in line!)
  • Neither I nor the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event assume any responsibility for any finger cramping during the contest entry process
And the Winners Are
DARLENE SCOTT
TERRI HUBBARD CARLE
CASSANDRA DARENSBOURG



Don't Forget to Wear Red Shoes! As part of my must to share and help, I have pledged to donate $1 to Red Sneakers For Oakley for each unique photo that an event attendee snaps and shares with me at the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. You MUST attend the Winston-Salem event and you MUST tag Red Sneakers For Oakley and me so we can reshare for even more awareness. Do you have to wear red sneakers? Nope. Any red shoe will do- even red socks. Get creative (but keep it family-friendly). 
Stop at my booth, find me, take a photo with me and let's help our food allergy community together.





Tagging Cheat Sheet
Twitter
Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event   @GFAFWellness         #GFAFEvent
Red Sneakers For Oakley                          @oakley_red               #redsneakersforoakley
Nutrimom (me!)                                         @TracyBNutrimom    #TracyBNutrimom

Instagram
Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event    @gfafwellnessevent
Red Sneakers For Oakley                           @redsneakersforoakley
Nutrimom (me again!)                                @TracyBNutrimom

Facebook
Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event     GFAFWellnessEvent
Red Sneakers For Oakley                            redsneakersforoakley
Nutrimom (yup, I'm still here!)                   NutrimomFAL


SEE YOU ALL SOON!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Awareness- Not Just a Hashtag

How do you share your thoughts on allergies and asthma?


May is the month to stretch your wings and reach out to those who may not understand that life is so very precious. Some may not understand that one moment can change a life forever. Some may think that waiting to use a medication will not make a difference. Some may not know that everywhere, people are dying because the proper knowledge was not given to them. Each of us is different and each of us finds a way to reach out with our own voice. Making your allergy voice heard can be anything- a tweet, an article, attending an event or even distributing information that will help others understand the importance of being vigilant for safety's sake. There is no such thing as too large or too small- the important thing is to find a way and do it.


This May, I was invited to attend the Asthma Bloggers Summit hosted by the Allergy & Asthma Network. This summit was an amazing day that compiled food allergy and asthma bloggers mixed with representatives from AstraZenecaThe Chest FoundationRegeneronSanofi and Allergy & Asthma Network (of course). With a laid back discussion, the day included the introduction of new resources available through the Allergy & Asthma Network, a Q&A on social media pointers  but more importantly our thoughts, opinions and personal accounts were included in the discussions. I felt that capturing each person's different experiences makes for a well-rounded, upfront discussion and brainstorming session that fuels nothing but the overwhelming need to help even more. Don't get me wrong, it's ok to be told things but when you are asked light bulbs go off, people begin to scribble and you can feel the increased advocacy in the room. Sharing within a no judgment zone is an amazing feeling. The empowerment that was held inside that room is an incredible energy that sent me back home pumped up and full of I can conquer the world ambition.

I Mentioned New Resources I am all about sharing new resources- the more we have at our fingertips, the more all of us can learn from each other and teach others. The Allergy & Asthma Network brought us up to speed about three great places that we can go to for asthma.
                         

  • Asthma: Take Action. Take Control A partnership with The Chest Foundation, this site shares info graphs, patient testimonials, an asthma control quiz, asthma severity assessment tool, downloadable fact sheets and a postcard size info card that you can share with others.
  • Be the Boss of Your Asthma If you ever needed to know or share facts about your asthma, this is another place to get what you need. Downloadable fact sheet, doctor visit checklist, Severe Eosinophilic Asthma (S.E.A.) information and guide to managing symptoms of S.E.A. accompanied by videos with leading asthma doctors helps you get a step up on your life with asthma.
  • E-Asthma Bunches of information on how to check if your asthma could be Eosinophilic asthma (a type of severe asthma) which can increase inflammation in the lungs. The site's "What? Who? How?" approach consists of a short video describing how eosinophils effect the lungs, what and who you should do and see for a diagnosis, a doctor's checklist and lung questionnaire to better the understanding of your diagnosis with your doctor.
With so many difficulties between trying to correctly describe your symptoms to a doctor mixed with the fear that sometimes accompanies a physician visit, all of these can be used alone or together to get you ready and proactive for your health.


Kortney of AllergyGirlEats
Yup, I Admittedly Fangirled I describe food allergy support as "a vast, never-ending place where people from all over the world meet. This is a family that you never knew existed and that you didn't think would ever be a part of your life". Am I the only one who feels this way? I am amazed every single day by the support that our community gives to each other while asking for nothing in return. So when I started to look over the other name tags of who else was going to be at the Summit, I did geek out just a little bit. Summits where you finally get to meet another blogger that you have known virtually for years is like running into a rock star in the food allergy world. These people that you correspond with, that you ask advice from and share your life with are finally there, in front of you and you can have a conversation beyond your computer screen. Call me a geek, I will proudly own it. (I may or may not have silently stalked Kortney, waiting to see her reaction.) To view all of my Summit photos, click here.

Drushane TeeHee
But It Gets Even Better This summit was followed by the yearly Allergy & Asthma Day Capitol Hill. What does this mean? Attendees heard some pretty powerful testimonials before we were offered tips and highlights of what we could discuss with our state's Congressional leaders. We heard from Luca Ingrassia- a 10 year old boy who suffered an anaphylactic reaction on an airplane. This brave boy's most moving statement was "If a 10 year old knows the risks, an airline should." We also heard from Drushane TeeHee, the mother who's spreading awareness on the side effects of Singulair (montelukast sodium) which caused her son to take his own life. Although the side effects may not happen to everyone that take it, I urge you to read this article, be very aware and share with others. Drushane's story left many of us, including myself, teary-eyed but so very grateful that she was brave enough to share her son's story to help others.

Then We Hit the Pavement Yes, we all went to Congress and spoke to our state's representatives. I have never been so excited, afraid, tired, exhilarated and proud all in the same day. The topics that all of us fought to urge Congress to support and pass included access to care, step therapy, disease managementmedication access, telemedicine, affordable medications and treatments, asthma and allergy program funding, health equality, food product labeling, cross-contact and USP797. Amidst the maze of Washington, D.C. were hopeful hearts, voices that were sharing concern and personal stories of themselves and others to let Congress understand how important our causes are to us and everyone else in our community and beyond. I proudly sported my red sneakers in support of the Debbs family which also proves that you can be a voice even without saying a word.

I want to thank the Allergy & Asthma Network for including me at this wonderful experience with so many other amazing people in addition to their sponsors that made this possible. This little blogger girl from North Carolina felt amazed at all of the people who supported each other but also I amazed myself by being a part of all of this when I never would have seen myself doing this. I am filled with even more hope than before, I have gained new food allergy family members and most of all, I find myself asking "What do I do now?" If I had an answer, that would be the end of my story and I refuse to stop where I am.

Allie Bahn, Gary Fitgerald & Marcela Gieminiani

Summit attendees included Allie BahnEmma Amoscato, Kortney Kwong Hing, Henry Ehrlich, Jennifer Roberge, Kerri MacKay, Erin Malawar and Andrea Jensen.




Sunday, April 29, 2018

Share Your Foods

Telling people to share their foods is off-limits when it comes to food allergies. 
But there is always an exception to the rule. 



This year, I partnered with Lowes Foods and a bunch of amazing allergy-friendly product brands to take part in the Pay It Forward movement. Although I also did this back in 2015, I was truly excited about the bag of items that local families got from all of us. Not only did Lowes Foods jump at the chance to help out, I had super samples from Banza, Crispy Green, Enjoy Life Foods, free2b Foods, Love Grown, Made Good Foods, OWYN, Simply 7 Snacks and SunButter. These bags were literally filled to the brim with love and goodness!

What is Pay It Forward Day? Simply put, "Pay It Forward Day is a global initiative that exists to make a difference by creating a huge ripple of kindness felt across the world." as seen at PayItForwardDay.com. With the help of Lisha Vannoy, Guidance Counselor at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, ten anonymous families got these surprise bags with the following items:


Lowes Foods (Robinhood Road location) donated:
  • A large can of tuna
  • A Box of spaghetti
  • A jar of pasta sauce
  • A bag of dry beans
  • Applesauce
  • A box of cereal
  • A box of chocolate chip cookies

That, in itself, is an incredible bag of items that would definitely feed a family well. But the way I see it, if we are going to help, go big or go home! It seems that all of the companies that donated the rest of the food items felt the same way. In addition to the food from Lowes Foods, these families also got each of these in their bag:
Each bag also had a letter attached, describing the Pay It Forward movement and who donated items to each of their families. This may seem like a small drop in the pond for those who need help but just as the Pay It Forward Day site explains, it is a ripple effect. Giving back is never just a small thing, especially to those who got all of these extras when they may have needed it most and not expected to have it. I am hoping to be a part of this movement again - will you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Your Angel Wears Red

Has your life been touched by food allergies? 
Are you entering a new journey that has turned your world upside down because the very thing that is supposed to nourish you can be fatal? 
Have you found out first hand how quickly a spec of food can spiral into a moment that you will never forget? 

Photo courtesy of RedSneakers.org

This is Oakley Debbs. Although I never met Oakley, I consider him and his family to be the most amazing people that walk the earth. Oakley's life was stopped short due to an anaphylactic reaction. He was not my son and his family is not related to me but I consider them to be a part of my family. You see, as a food allergy mother to a son who is allergic to peanuts, eggs, shellfish and watermelon I can almost feel the terror and helplessness of losing a child. I say almost because, although it touches my heart so closely, I can never truly know how this feels. The Debbs family has lost a son and I have not. I would not be able to lift myself up if this happened to my son. The fact that this family is allowing their strength to be the strength for others is a super power. Their dedication to educate others, provide comfort for others and to share with others keeps Oakley alive within all of our hearts and minds. Many of us are asked If you died tomorrow, would you have accomplished something amazing during your life? But how many people can actually answer that what is even more important is what you accomplish AFTER your life. "This child of mine, he was a rock star, he was a good, good kid. And always in my heart of hearts, I knew that he would make a difference in his life, I just didn't know it would be after he passed away. So that's a big part of my driving force- the legacy of Oakley." - Merrill Debbs, Oakley's mom and co-founder of Red Sneakers For Oakley.

The Only Angel in Shoes Oakley's family uses the memory of Oakley's habit of wearing red shoes as a symbol of support and awareness. They saw a need for our food allergy community and rose to our side so that our families would be safer. How many unnecessary deaths have been caused by an anaphylactic reaction that could have most likely been prevented if food allergies were explained a bit more? How many times have you heard a person commenting "I was never told this would happen so quickly' or "I didn't know the label said it contained an allergen"- unless the people that you are interacting with every day have the correct knowledge about how to prevent a reaction, they will not understand how to save more lives. There is no assuming. There is no time to assume. There is only education, support and preparedness. Food allergies are so often pushed into the background because it is an invisible disease- until it's not. The power of the color of a pair of shoes makes us all more visible and when we are visible, people open their eyes. It's a small step but it's a beginning and we need to continue.

"Red is the Color of Extremes. It's the color of passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger and adventure. Our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the color of fire and blood- energy and primal forces - most of red's symbolism today arises from its powerful associations in the past." (at Colormatters.com ) I think this accurately depicts life with food allergies as well as the growing strength within our community. We choose power, we choose energy and we choose to be extreme because we know that is what will help save more lives. Oakley's spirit truly drives us. And because food allergies have different extremes themselves, I wanted to share some of the touching testimonials on RedSneakers.org in hopes that anyone reading this will understand that they are not alone.

"I just wanted to let you know of yet another life you and Oakley have saved."






"And because of that we will never forget Oakley..."


Our community needs more support because not all of us are as strong as the Debbs family. Sometimes, we need to laugh, cry, scream, run or just say nothing because it's what we need to do to be able to cope. Regardless of what you need, I wanted to share this resource with all of you so that you can reach out to them if you need them. You know I am always here to help in any way that I can but sometimes, I am not enough for someone and I am ok with that. I don't have all of the answers, most of us don't. The important thing to remember is to ask for help.

You can reach out to Red Sneakers For Oakley on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Not a "social" person? You can also contact them by email, mail and telephone

Want to help spread food allergy education and awareness? Get information on their School Program Initiative or attend an event




Personal Note
To the Debbs Family-

Thank you for what you do for all of us, each and every day. I applaud your bravery and I admire your willingness to help rather than hurt. I have shared "Food allergy support; this is a vast, never-ending place where people from all over the world meet. This is a family that you never knew existed and that you didn't think would ever be a part of your life." I am so very grateful to have you as part of my family even before I knew that I needed you ~






Monday, March 12, 2018

Bloomfield Farms Blows My Mind

You all know that I share openly and honestly. I've stated that with ALL products, allergy-friendly or not, there are good products and there are just plain crappy products. Life is too short to eat crappy products, right? And bread....oh my goodness, if I could have just one thing that tasted exactly like my foods before food allergies, I would say bread. So simple but so very true. We all know- even Oprah loves it. Then a few weeks ago, I was asked if I wanted to try a loaf of Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread. I agreed but honestly, the words Vegan bread kind of scare me whenever I see them. I tend to immediately picture something that's heavy, seedy and healthy but just not something that I would continue to eat on a daily basis. But oh my Bloomfield Farms- you ROCKED my bread world!


Smell This may seem weird but I the first thing that I do with any food is smell it. Let's face it, if you open a package and the smell turns you off no matter how good it tastes, how would you even share it then? "Yeah, I tried this and it smells really weird but here, taste it."....uh, not gonna fly. Luckily, the smell was the very first thing that I noticed when I opened my loaf. Do you remember making sandwiches when you were little and there was that nice bread smell? I am happy to share that it's tucked into every loaf of Bloomfield Farms. 

The BEST SunButter & jelly I've had in awhile!

Texture Unlike many other allergy-friendly bread products, their White Sandwich Bread is soft just like regular bread and it's moist but not soggy. (For those of you new to Vegan or gluten free breads, this is a huge thing to overcome with these products. Usually, most of them are either firmer than what you had hoped or are kind of gummy.) Even their crust is good! Oh my...my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Seriously! Plus- no after taste, just bread taste. 

Grilled vs. a Plain Sammie Ok, I admit making a simple SunButter & jelly sandwich was heavenly with this bread. Seriously. To conduct a thorough product review, I wanted to savor Bloomfield Farms in all forms. Because being able to have a sandwich that you can pack and go and it still stays soft and moist is amazing. I wanted to see how these slices held up to grilling. Testing areas included seeing if the bread became too hard or chewy upon grilling and if the taste changed at all (again, bread with icky after taste is off-putting). The verdict? OH.MY.GAWH Bloomfield Farms...can you come live next door to me so I can live on your bread?! You remember how I mentioned the crust was even good- when it's grilled, it's similar to crusty Italian bread but slightly crispy with a bit of a tenderness on the inside. Oooohhh....I am drooling on my keyboard again. I told you I like bread. 

Toasted Yes, I toasted it too. You make think this step was not relevant since I grilled it but a good bread tester knows some of us just prefer a piece of toast. Toasting these bad boys gave me similar results as grilling which surprised me a bit. The bread still stayed crispy yet tender on the inside. 

The Ultimate Bread Test This is a biggie. One factor that is utterly important, especially when you (most likely) have to mail order a product and know you cannot use it up as long as it will last- freezing. How many times have you put your allergy-friendly products into the freezer only to have them crumble, fall apart upon using them or just get plain gross and stale? Bloomfield Farms passed the freezing test with flying colors. I tried freezing it, then toasting it first. I also froze it, then thawed it in the fridge and prepared it as a packable sandwich. BOTH turned out with the same results- the bread was STILL soft and tasted great. This is like miracle bread. I know I must sound corny right now but come on fellow foodies, you totally get me right? 

Frozen & prepared- STILL amazing!
The Only Downside There is always some kind of downside, no matter how large or small, right? But this is a good downside...does that make sense? The only way to get a loaf of Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread is to order it. MOST often, they are sold out but after trying it, this is completely understandable. For convenience sake, click here to see if you can buy some now. If you are on their website, you must find the photo of the bread in the slider pictures and click on it to order it. You will notice that Bloomfield Farms also offers baking mixes but I didn't get to try those.

Ingredients Because that is always one of the most important things! Water, modified tapioca starch, white rice flour, potato starch, corn starch, palm oil, evaporated cane juice, contains less than 2% of each of the following: millet flour, dried yeast (yeast, sorbitan monostearate), modified cellulose, canola oil, sea salt, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, rice bran extract, cultured dextrose, calcium sulfate, enzymes, ascorbic acid.  Bloomfield Farms is Certified gluten free from the Celiac Support Association, made in a dedicated gluten and nut free facility and is free of wheat, soy, nut, egg and dairy.  


A huge HUGE bready, carby happy blogger hug to Bloomfield Farms for sending this loaf of love to me (please feel free to send me any and all extras, leftovers/rejects). To find out more visit them at thebloomfielfarms.com and give them a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest




*Never any compensation except for the products themselves to review as all of my reviews are always honest 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dear FARE, It's Not Me- It's You

One blogger's opinion

FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) for those with food allergies, this has been a name that has been part of many aspects of the food allergy world. We have seen them praised on social media for all of their help, they have held walks and donated to food allergy research but (yes, there is a but) in my opinion, there is another side to this organization. For a long time, I bit my tongue because I felt it may make me seem unprofessional to air my differences. Then it occurred to me- I don't need FARE to like me, I just need them to do their job correctly and help my fellow food allergy families.

I'm Not Bitter, I'm Flat Out Angry With the recent announcement of James Baker stepping down, thoughts that I've had pushed way down for a long time came back to life. I'd like to say that this article is purely based on my experiences and those that I have spoken with that will remain anonymous. When I see injustice out in the open and nobody feels safe speaking up, it makes me angry. I have spoken with food allergy parents, persons that have had dealings one way or another with this organization directly and indirectly, doctors that have helped them and yes, I am one of them as well. Has FARE done some good for food allergies? Of course but the way that people were treated is not the standard that they should continue to bring going forward. My purpose of this article is not to bash them but hopefully to let them know that they are not doing the best job that they can do for us. From what I have heard and been told, it is my opinon that the majority of the food allergy community does not feel that the organization is working in the best light of our community and that the end of the current CEO should bring to the surface multiple areas that need to be and should be fixed before going forward if FARE truly wants to make a difference. All of the people that you have been talking down to, all of the people that have been met with anger and negativity, all of the people that felt intimidated not to work with other organizations while working with you and all of the countless volunteers that get paid nothing NOTHING to help your organization that don't even get a pat on the back are all of the people that you are failing. The saddest thing about all of this is that it's discussed often within the food allergy community but your organization has become so unapproachable that nobody can tell you this. Volunteers that have spoken up have been abruptly released from their services directly after wards. People have contacted your support staff when they needed direction for their walks or events and got no support, not even a pleasant hello. I have even been told that speakers that were scheduled to speak at one event had to cancel because it was frowned upon due to a conflict of interest with FARE. This baffles me- the last time I checked, our food allergy community was supposed to rally together to build a stronger community. These actions are quite the opposite. It's not me- it is, in fact, you FARE.

Is Anyone Else Looking at Numbers?! When people hear the term "Non-Profit", they assume that the organization doesn't make much money for themselves but instead, gives most of their profits to their cause, right? To be specific, the dictionary describes a non-profit as "not established for the purpose of making a profit; not entered into for money." This being said, we assume that all of those walks, events, dinners, etc. are bringing in a bunch of money for food allergy research and education which it did, yay! This being said (again) what do you think a CEO of a non-profit would be making for an annual salary? Wait for it......



Not bad for a non-profit, huh? And this in addition to his $225,000 salary as seen on UMSalary.info


I could be stretching my thoughts but isn't this kind of how the whole Epigate thing started? That's a lot of money and FARE you can argue that I don't understand the logistics, what money was made and donated versus salaries and overhead and blah, blah,blah  but in the end, it is my opinion that our community is seeing a number that seems far too large for a non-profit employee to be bringing home. It seems that this is a number that means more money in his pocket and less toward the purpose you started out to serve. Does Mr. Baker deserve to get paid for his time- absolutely but holy cow FARE.... I am just shaking my head. FARE's 2016 Form 990 can be seen here but seeing $225,000 and thinking about all of those volunteers not getting paid for their time just doesn't add up morally to me.

Just to prove that I do my research here is a wonderful and precise article on this very topic shared on ThoughtCo. which points fingers at other non-profit CEO's not doing their organizations justice. In the same breath, if you try to tell me it's not uncommon for this salary range to be the norm, let me also quote from the same article just so you know I am not just spitting out useless information "the lowest paid President/CEO/Commissioner was The Salvation Army's Commissioner Todd Bassett who receives a salary of only $13,000 per year (plus housing) for managing the $2 billion organization.That means about $0.93 per dollar earned goes back out to local charity causes."

Time Travel Let's backtrack for just a moment to my personal experience. I hosted a FARE Walk back in 2013. Bear with me as some of this may sound catty but this is not a bitching session, just a very honest session. Did I have help from the coordinators before or the day of the event? Nope. In fact, my coordinator showed up 2 hours late and did nothing. Did FARE include our walk in their social media and mailing- nope. I was later told it was because it was such a new walk that other larger walks took precedence. Regardless of all of the negative crap that happened before, during and after I fulfilled my obligations to my community- we had an amazing day and I did manage to raise just $150 shy of $10,000 which (from what I was told) is seen as an acceptable amount for a first time walk. And as soon as it was done and I was exhausted, I already had plans on how to make the following year bigger and better. Not for myself, not even for FARE but for my community because they are the reason we rally together and support each other.

The next year did not happen. Unbeknownst to me, FARE had decided to remove me as Walk Chair and replace me with a corporate donor that they felt would bring in more money. They also informed me that they were including a new team member that happened to be a local person that I shall not name who called FARE and told them malicious, horrible untruths (read here) and yet, FARE found this person to be the type of person that they wanted representing them. So you see FARE, I was angry for a long, long time but I got over it. I didn't want to make waves or ruffle feathers and I chalked it up to a bunch of bad decisions that were made on your part. I forgot and moved on. Until I began to hear many, many others describing similar grievances.... It's not me- it is, in fact, you FARE.

So FARE, the ball is in your court and all of us are waiting to see how you advance. I'm sure most won't feel comfortable stepping forward to you but I'm putting everything out there for you to chew on. I will send you positive thoughts in hopes that you will emerge a better organization and take us all by surprise this time.