Meetings, Conferences and Business Trips
You may have done everything possible to take precautions at your usual workplace. But when you go offsite for a meeting, conference or other professional event, it can be like starting all over again with communicating about your food allergy.
These occasions often provide catered lunches, dinners or snack breaks. They also tend to include organizers, leaders and attendees who are not involved in your day-to-day work, meaning they are unaware of your needs and accommodations. These factors can pose real challenges for someone with a food allergy.
Meetings and trainings are settings where people traditionally snack, sometimes all day long.
Inform or remind the facilitator of your food allergy needs each time you RSVP for a meeting or training. Then reintroduce yourself before the session begins, for a face-to-face reminder.
The trainers or facilitators may be able to offer allergy-friendly snacks. They can ask people not to eat in the room during the meeting.
When you take off-site examinations for professional development or advancement, always tell the organizers you have a disability. Tell them about the modifications that will help you take the exam safely.
For example, you may need to have a test environment free from certain foods. Or you may need to bring your own food or medication into the exam space, when it typically isn’t allowed.
Be prepared to provide the necessary documentation to support these reasonable accommodations for your food allergy.
Worrying about your food allergies when you travel for work can keep you from fully participating in the event. But planning ahead can make a difference.
When you book your travel, research each company’s policies about serving snacks and meals. Then you can decide which airline or other public transportation will work best for you.
Traveling by car with coolers full of foods and other essentials is also an option. Learn more about managing food allergies on airlines, at resorts and while traveling overseas.
Some lodging options allow you to bring your own food or prepare your own meals. Many traditional hotels offer rooms with refrigerators and microwaves. Meanwhile, extended-stay hotels are guaranteed to have rooms with kitchenettes or full kitchens. There are also vacation rentals by owner, where you rent a person’s home with all its amenities and comforts.
Conferences and workshops, especially large ones, do not always take responsibility for feeding an attendee with food allergies. They are often catered far in advance, giving you little chance to make special dietary requests.
You may choose to bring your own food to the conference. You can buy it from a grocery store where you can read all package labels, or prepare it yourself at your hotel.
Another good strategy can be to find food allergy-aware restaurants nearby. Think about the chain restaurants where you comfortably eat out at home, then see if the chain has a location near your hotel or the conference venue.