Food Allergy Hero Spotlight: Maureen Burke
In 2010, Maureen Burke launched One Dish Cuisine Café, Deli and Bakery in Ellicott City, MD to provide healthy food that is served in a allergy-friendly environment with minimal risk of cross contact of allergens. Her gluten-free and allergen-friendly meals are provided to restaurants, hospitals, and grocery stores in the local area. Maureen has been involved with FARE Food Allergy Walks, and One Dish Cuisine is an active supporter of the Rockville and Baltimore Food Allergy Heroes Walks. We asked her to share more of her story and why she is passionate about raising awareness and funding for food allergies.
Tell us about your family and the food allergies affecting your family.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease almost 30 years ago and after that diagnosis I also learned that I have an allergy to milk rather than a "severe lactose intolerance". I have several other food allergies (egg, caffeine, wheat), asthma and too many environmental allergies to count. My mother has a latex allergy and my grandson just outgrew his soy and milk allergies.
How do you manage food allergies in your family?
I just always make sure that I have the food I need at home. Owning a gluten- and allergen-free restaurant allows me to eat safely; all of the time. I rarely eat anywhere else; when on vacation I always pack my own food and usually eat at home before I go out. I can still enjoy going out with friends and family, I just don't want to take a chance and eat with them. I have learned the hard way several times.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Eating outside of my own home has always been the biggest challenge ... cross-contact and cross-contamination and lack of education is rampant in restaurants and hospitals. That is why I opened One Dish Cuisine in 2010, providing our frozen line of food to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC; Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, MD and Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster, MD. In 2012, I opened One Dish Cuisine Cafe, Deli and Bakery in order to provide a safe haven for those of us with celiac disease and food allergies offering fresh meals and baked goods that we all want to try but are usually not safe for us!
How did you get involved in FARE’s Food Allergy Heroes Walk?
When I first opened the Cafe, Deli and Bakery, the walks used to be in Ellicott City; it was an easy way to bring safe food samples to those in need and helped raise funds for such a great cause. One of the biggest challenges we face is educating the public about the seriousness of food allergies and FARE is filling this need. When I have time I volunteer doing education sessions in elementary schools and speaking engagements from time to time.
What is your favorite part about FARE’s Food Allergy Heroes Walk?
The gathering of people, young and old, all united in raising funds and awareness of food allergies. I get out whenever the restaurant allows me to get there. Weekends are extremely busy for us and it is difficult to make it every year!
Tell us about One Dish Cuisine… What was your inspiration for starting it?
I wanted to create a safe place to eat for myself and for those like me, where a family can come out to eat and relax because the major allergens are not even allowed into the place! Currently we are the only one in the U.S. doing this. One Dish Cuisine refers to our frozen line of food that can be cooked and served in the same container, greatly reducing the risk of cross-contact. One Dish Cuisine Cafe Deli and Bakery is located in Ellicott City, MD where we offer meals free of wheat, rye, barley, oats, soy, eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, sesame, peanuts and tree nuts. (Coconut is in very limited items). We have a full cafe, bakery, deli and offer everything from breads, cupcakes, pretzels, brownies, pizzas, Reuben Sandwiches, "Cheese" Steak Subs, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Wings, Chicken Tenders and Fries and more...we have a huge menu!
What advice would you give other families with food allergies?
Stay diligent, focused and trust your gut. Always advocate for yourselves and educate while you advocate!
You can be a food allergy hero like Maureen! Sign up for a FARE’s Food Allergy Heroes Walk today.
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