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Media Room January 26, 2023

FARE Thanks Sens. Durbin, Duckworth for New Bill to Make Schools Safer, Help WIC Families

The “Protecting Children with Food Allergies Act” Critical for Nearly 6 Million Food Allergic Children

January 26, 2023 (McLean, VA) – Today, FARE, (Food Allergy Research & Education) thanked Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth for their leadership in authoring and introducing the Protecting Children with Food Allergies Act that would strengthen food allergy training for the nation’s estimated 50,000 cafeteria workers and assist state Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) employees in providing information about recognizing and preventing food allergies to help the nearly 50% of American families relying on WIC for nutritional assistance. 

“On behalf of the more than 32 million Americans suffering from life-threatening food allergies, especially the nearly 6 million children between zero and 18, FARE thanks Senators Durbin, Duckworth, and their staffs for working on this legislation for more than a year and introducing the Protecting Children with Food Allergies Act,” said FARE CEO, Sung Poblete, Phd RN. “This bill, if passed, would make an immediate impact in our nation’s nearly 98,000 public schools and among the most economically vulnerable of Americans who rely on WIC to provide their newborns with nutrition assistance.”

The Protecting Children with Food Allergies Act was introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) on January 26 and would update the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNR) by requiring food allergy training for cafeteria workers providing meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). It also provides additional educational materials on food allergies to front-line WIC workers to help their clients recognize and take steps to prevent their babies from developing food allergies later in life.

“At eleven years old, while my peers were in classes socializing, I was at home isolated. During middle school, I was faced with extreme lack of empathy from my public school’s administration. The school staff was uneducated on food allergy, especially in the cafeteria. The clear gap in awareness resulted in my family homeschooling me for two years. The Protecting Children with Food Allergies Act would have allowed me to continue with a public education and saved me from the severe isolation I felt during the growing years of my life,” said FARE advocate and Illinois resident, Lizzy Anderlik.  

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over the past 20 years, the rates of children with food allergies has more than doubled and for children with a peanut or tree nut allergy, it has tripled. Life-threatening food allergies and the risk of fatal anaphylaxis are growing at an even faster rate among Black and Asian-American children.

“Children with allergies, especially allergic reactions to food, face complex challenges when attending school. Even if their allergy is well-understood, cross-contamination risks mean that every bite they take could, through no one's fault, send them to a hospital or worse. In our work with over 125 schools in the Chicago area, I know that the good-hearted people in food services are some of the most considerate. They constantly look out for the well-being of their kids, and I know they will welcome resources that best equip them to prepare nutritious, delicious meals in a way that keeps all children safe,” said Matt Siemer, Executive Director, Mobile Care Chicago.

While food allergies are on the rise nationally, a 2020 study found that children on Medicaid were less than one-tenth as likely as children on private health insurance to be diagnosed with a food allergy. With about half of the country’s children on Medicaid, the combination of underdiagnosis coupled with the dramatic increase in food allergy prevalence makes our public schools the site of the majority of our children’s anaphylactic attacks as a 2016 NIH study reported with 25% of all attacks occurring in children with “no known food allergies.”

Said Poblete, “Because of the rapid rise in food allergies and the massive underdiagnosis among school children on Medicaid, Senators Durbin and Duckworth’s legislation, should it become law, will prevent anaphylactic attacks and save lives now and into the future.”  

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About FARE

FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) is the nation’s leading non-profit engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest food allergy charity supporting research. FARE’s innovative education, advocacy and research initiatives transform the future of food allergy through new and improved treatments and prevention strategies, effective policies and legislation, and novel approaches to managing the disease. To learn more, visit: foodallergy.org.

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