FARE Leadership Spotlight - May 2021
Meet Sarah Ackerman, a member of FARE’s Rising Leaders Committee, and learn a little more about her!
- What's your name, where are you from, and what is your food allergy connection?
My name is Sarah Ackerman, I grew up in Westchester, NY, and am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, legumes, shellfish and mustard. I have been growing into and out of food allergies for my entire life and have many family members who also deal with life-threatening food allergies.
- What drew you to FARE? Why do you support FARE?
Initially, I was drawn to FARE for its amazing allergy resources. One memory I have from when I was younger was relying on FARE to provide lists of the scientific names of my allergens. This and many resources developed since then, saved my parents and me hours of research over the years. As I have gotten older, I have been so grateful for the sense of community that FARE provides. I volunteered at food allergy walks, participated in the Teal Pumpkin Project, and more recently have been able to meet fellow food-allergic people in person at events. Whenever new changes in legislation or labeling requirements arise, I know I can always count on FARE to keep the food allergy community updated, informed and properly represented.
- When you think of FARE, what first comes to mind?
When I think of FARE, I honestly think of the word community. The people in the food allergy community I have met have all been wonderful, and I have found that I immediately click with people who “just get it,” because they also manage food allergies every day. In addition to those with allergies, the staff at FARE has been amazing. Whether or not FARE staff members have food allergies, their passion for advocating and educating has been truly life-changing. FARE shows the size of the food allergy community and empowers individuals (whether or not they have food allergies) to be strong advocates.
- What is one thing you would tell any food-allergic person or parent/guardian of a food-allergic person?
Trust your gut! If you don’t feel like eating it, don’t eat it. Sometimes people mean well, but you just have a bad feeling. That’s okay! Never feel like you need to give into peer pressure because someone is telling you something is safe. If you feel uncomfortable or uncertain about a food, I always think it is better to just skip it.
- What is the best food allergy advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was that my true friends would accommodate my food allergies. I am not going to lie, this can sometimes be a tough lesson to learn. However, my closest friends have really shown that they are my true friends by switching our dinners to safe restaurants or adjusting plans to not include food. They always go out of their way to make me feel comfortable, and they love texting me pictures of new potentially safe snacks from supermarket aisles!
- What is your favorite hobby or pastime?
The pandemic has made me really enjoy my time in the kitchen. I love trying new recipes and now spend a lot of my free time baking!
- With the FASTER Act recently signed into law, can you reflect on your experience meeting with your representatives and participating in events like Courage at Congress?
Attending FARE’s inaugural Courage At Congress fly-in truly changed my life. I made some lifelong friends that I have spoken to weekly over the past year. I am passionate about food allergy education and advocacy, and learned so much from the panels and sessions that FARE held. Additionally, it felt like a powerful moment, standing on the Capitol steps with all the other advocates knowing we were all there with the same goal: to pass the FASTER Act and improve the lives of all of us who are allergic to sesame. Now that the FASTER Act has passed, it feels incredible to be even a small part of the process. Meeting with my local and state legislators and sharing my food allergy story showed that everyone knows someone who is affected by food allergies. Every person had a personal connection to food allergies in some way. One moment that truly stands out to me was meeting with a legislative aide. After sharing the details of an anaphylactic reaction, she pulled me aside after the meeting to tell me that she was now going to convince her sister to carry epinephrine. These are the types of unpredictable moments that show that our advocacy can truly make a difference in someone’s life.