Box Tops & Food Allergies!

You might be asking what these 2 important subjects might have in common!

To start off, my friend Katie, who is an amazing mom to one allergenic kid, is very involved in our local public school. She also has a voice in our community where she is currently promoting sponsors in building a new playground, wheelchair accessible, for not only the students at this school, but to the community.

Save those Box Tops!
One way she raises funds is by saving Box Tops. Many of you may know exactly what I’m talking about, but for those of you who don’t – you can be just like me!

I faithfully cut out the box tops from different food items, and I save them up and give to our neighborhood school!

I want to help! I want to contribute!
In my small way, I’m helping to make our community a better place. Now if any of you have a stash that you’ve been saving, and you don’t know what to do with them – please email me and I’ll have you mail them directly to me! I’ll put them to good use, I promise.

Would you be willing to help out with this important project?

Food Allergies
I believe that any gracious hostess would want to know if there is an “allergy” issue, before preparing a meal for guests. And I also know that many of my readers have dealt with this problem, because they have shared their stories with me.

My friend Katie also deals with food allergies in her home with her daughter, Jenna. When I asked her to share what she does when they are invited over to friends’ houses, she has a great plan!

Katie’s story
I find out what is being served in advance and then try to match it with my daughter’s safe, foods that I bring with me. However, some of our friends have gotten very good at substituting to make things safe which is a very special treat for Jenna, when she doesn't feel different. There are so many food allergies now, a study is being done about the increase of that and MS tied into the antibacterial craze.

It’s more complicated than that though, because sometimes it means having to educate the parents. I guess it would be good to say that you should try to give each host a list of specific allergens and always bring safe foods.

I also love the passion and desire that was evident from this woman’s comment. Not even allergies are holding her back, as she is going to step out and start entertaining now!

Reader’s story
My kids and I have celiac, which is a lot like having food allergies. Celiacs have to eat gluten-free foods. This makes it difficult for other people who don't know us well to invite us out to eat, or even over for a cup of coffee or a play date. It's not difficult for us, as we just bring our own food.

Because of the intricacies of cooking for people with celiac, we can't ask people to bring food that they've prepared in their own kitchen. But I know that people like to be able to contribute. So I've come up with an idea.

Instead of asking people to bring a dish, I'm going to ask people to come a bit early to help out. I can have a few people help in the kitchen, another person can be in charge of music, and someone else can be in charge of getting drinks for people as they arrive.

We're having our first dinner party with just a couple of close friends next weekend. One of them is bringing her salsa recipe and the ingredients and will make the salsa when she gets here. It should be a lot of fun

Wow! I’d say none of us can make an excuse now, after reading this story!

My friend Laura, from Organized Junkie, shared her story with me, and you can actually read a post she did awhile back on Food Allergy Awareness Week, here. Also, check out this Celiac Family blog!

Laura’s story
My son's allergies are so extensive I always bring his food with me when we go to friends’ for dinner. I usually find out what is being served in order to bring something similar for my son. It's safer and it takes the pressure off the host. If anyone is planning to cook an allergy friendly meal for a guest I would definitely recommend they review the menu and ingredients first with the guest and even then it might not be enough.

For instance, those suffering from Celiac disease may need to have their food cooked in dedicated pots and pans as well. It's always best to check first just to be on the safe side. Your guests will appreciate the extra care you've taken to provide a safe meal for them.

I’d love to know what you do, as the guest being invited into another home. Do you tell the hostess in advance, expecting her to meet/match the criteria needed?

Or do you do like my friend Katie and Laura, and you just bring the right foods for your family’s special needs?

Please share your thoughts with us?!

(Don't forget to check out Barney Butter - for those allergic to peanuts! It is all-natural almond butter, and SO very delicous!).

UPDATE: Barney Butter jars ARE made in a Peanut-Free Facility! And soon the 90-Calorie Barney Butter Packets will be too! (read the Barney Butter website for exact info!).


Charity Grace said...

We have just begun to deal with this as we unpack the implications of my child's food allergies. I am so looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

Sandy Toes said...

I have a child with all nuts and peanut allergies...I am careful with her and at times may tell the "hostess". Usually it all works out! But allergies are very serious and can be life or death...GREAT post of awareness!

-sandy toe

An Adventurer in the World said...

Barney Butter gets the thumbs up here. I shared it with my boot camp class, too, most really enjoyed it.

One caution: Barney Butter is processed in a facility that also processes peanuts, soy.

deb meyers

Sandy said...

I just UPDATED my website. Barney Butter JARS ARE MADE IN A PEANUT-FREE FACILITY! Soon, the 90-calorie packets will be too!

Betsy said...

These are great ideas! My friend's son is deathly allergic to peanuts! I'm going to send her the Barney Butter link!

Sonya said...

My son is deathly allergic to peanuts...thanks for updating others on this issue!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for addressing this issue. Within the last year, I discovered my 3- and 4-year-old boys are allergic to: wheat, milk (cheese), egg, soy, nuts - YIKES! It has changed the way we eat and entertain. When we go to someone's house, I always find out what they are making and bring something similar for the boys. I have yet to find anyone who is offended when we bring food. Most people just want to get together and fellowship.

When we have people to our home, I have found some wonderful recipes that people love. My brother-in-law laughingly says the gluten-free spaghetti tastes too good to be gluten-free. I will buy bread and cheese products occasionally for our guests because most people are so used to eating bread and cheese. Our boys know that it has wheat/cheese/eggs... and will not eat it. Food allergies are not an excuse to not entertain. They are simply a reason to plan ahead a little more. It is worth it!

An Adventurer in the World said...

Thanks for clarifying, Sandy, it was the 90-cal. packets I was thinking about when I cautioned readers.

Glad she is changing to a peanut-free processing plant. Most people who choose almond butter would be careful label readers and have to avoid buying the handy packets!

Love the portability of the packets, they have gone in the lunchbox already this week.

deb meyers

Emily said...

Yes, my daughter is nuts-dairy-eggs allergic ... has been since a baby and is now 8 yrs old. When we share meals w/others, it is typically with close friends and family, all of whom know of the allergies and are usually amazing in providing options that she can eat! the GREAT news is that her diet is incredibly natural and whole-foods based (real fruit/veggies/meats/grains) so this is how our family eats primarily. thankfully she is old enough to know her allergies and knows to check.

one of the most difficult areas for me has been BIRTHDAY parties! And this includes the monthly classroom parties, the holiday class parties, etc etc ETC! For bday parties, I always call the mama first, share the allergy concerns and offer to bring an alternative. For the past few years, our routine is that i bring Oreos and in order to reduce my daughter's feeling of embarrassment and standing out, the Oreos (and cake!) are offered to all ... a few moms have even offered to provide an alternative treat at their child's parties but I never expect it.

at the beginning of every school year, i have clear communications w/the teacher (and most have followed up by requesting that no parents send peanut-snacks to class, which is a blessing!!). I *always* offer to bring treats/snacks for all parties so that I am certain there is a safe choice for my girl.

I have become a pro at allergy-free foods and baked items, so it's never a problem when we have parties and guests!

LuLu said...

Such an important post... my children don't have food allergies but for my little ones I do pack something for them to eat because a lot of our friends are out of the very young stage of children and I don't want the hostess to worry about feeding a 3 year old.

Betts said...

I always check with new guests to see if there are any allegeries or food requirements (such a vegan or vegetarian). I keep notes of these in my computer so I don't have to ask repeatedly. I call it their "dining dossier". I also include preferences as I discover them, like wines or cocktails, they like, if they like coffee or tea after the meal... that sort of thing.

I'm allergic to shellfish, and I do try to make my hosts aware of this ahead of time.

folkwoman said...

We have two boys with food allergies, one with peanut, tree nut, soy, beans and peas, the other with eggs. It makes life interesting. I've learned a lot about making requests - for instance, if my kids come in contact with residue of the allergen, they can have a bad reaction. So even being at the same table where cake (made with egg) is served can be a problem. I often bring our own food. At cookouts we have to constantly be on the lookout for someone using the same tongs to pick up the soy-sauce marinated chicken and the allergen-free hotdogs. I always let the hostess know ahead of time about the food allergies. I don't expect them to try and read labels and find stuff that's ok for both boys though. Depending on what is being served I try to bring something they can have.

Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

No one in our family has a food allergy BUT we do eat quite differently than most everyone else. We choose not to eat anything that contains refined sugar (corn syrup, white sugar- pure cane sugar, the like) or anything that contains MSG.

This makes going out to eat, going to someone's home for a meal, having a meal brought to us sometimes kind of "sticky."

I try to never be a burden, after all it is our personal choice, and I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Usually when we are going to someone's house for a meal I offer to bring the dessert. That way I know that EVERYONE can eat it and enjoy. Many times, after I explain our diet, I will offer to bring the ingredients that normally contain MSG or the sugar. Because I can find most everything in a "safe" form. And, you know, sometimes I have to respectfully pass on certain foods.

I have found that most everyone is happy to help in any way, they are interested in our diet, and never make us feel funny for eating differently.

I have plenty of friends that have kids with allergies and I have found that having a different diet has made me very empathetic and sensitive. I very much enjoy finding ways to make delicious food for someone with a dietary restriction.


Awesome link with the almond butter!


Ms. Tee said...

My very good friend has celiac's. We moved away several years ago & so I haven't really had to think about it much. But I do ask about peanut allergies when we have kids over. I think the barney butter is such a great alternative. I'll have to try it for sure. :)

Miss G said...

Really, really cool! I love Laura's idea of inviting people to come early even if there aren't food allergies involved. What precious time together too and a good ice breaker! Kelly

Grace said...

i'm devouring the barney butter that you sent me--it's amazing!

Stacey @ The Blessed Nest said...

Wonderful, wonderful post!! I have celiac disease, and also have friends with nut, dairy, and cinnamon allergies! In my experience, those with allergies/food intolerances are willing to bring their own foods to stay safe. And also not to put undue pressure on the hostess. However, I have found that it's always nicest to feel included in the meal/festivities and not feel once again like the "sicky" with "special food". Though believe me, I'll bring and eat my own before getting sick! :)

I guess I'm saying here are things you can do:
ALWAYS ask guests if there are any food allergies/aversions. You, as a hostess want to serve safe food they'll enjoy! At this time, your guest will discuss whether they feel better bringing their own food or trying to pick and choose with yours.

Clean down your kitchen and don't allow any of the offending foods to enter the kitchen until after your party.

At a buffet, make tent-shaped notecards with the name of the dish and allergens you know(Chicken Parmigiana; Contains wheat, dairy, eggs).

Maybe your allergic guests would like to contribute to a pot-luck buffet. Let them bring a "safe" dish to share, and let them go first in the buffet line to make sure that 1. they actually get to eat the food they brought and it isn't gobbled up by everyone else first! and 2. to avoid cross-contamination by other guests sticking "dirty" utensils in a "safe" dish. Both have happened to me! I will usually bring a main dish and a dessert that are gluten-free, and believe me, they're gone before you know it!

If your guests feel safer bringing their own food, try to not call attention to this fact. Just serve everyone up with a smile, and leave any explanations to your guest if he/she so chooses (not everyone wants to feel "different").

If you have family members with an allergy (like a sibling), learn to cook a safe, full meal for EVERYONE in the family to eat! It can be done! No food that everyone can't eat! For example, in my family: I'm Celiac, my parent has diabetes (strict food eating), and my sis doesn't eat red meat. We manage just fine making meals that everyone can eat the same thing and enjoy!!

I've found that telling hosts "whole foods" are easiest to not mess up. Use food that remains in it's normal state. For example, grilled chicken breast (no fancy marinades, thank you), green beans, salad, (veggies), and maybe grilled fruit with ice cream for dessert is a simple to make, safe to eat meal.

Be sure to check and double check ingredient labels, and don't bag up the trash till a guest can read labels if they desire. Allergens can lurk where you'd least expect (salad dressings, bbq, frozen veggies, etc).

Make the event focus on the company, not the food :)! Have fun together!!

I know this was crazy long! :) Thanks for sharing with this post!!

Small House said...

No food allergies, but...I haven't saved box tops for years. I'll try to remember, and save them up for you. When I get a bunch, I'll email you for your address.
Have a great day.