Millions of Americans live with food allergies and the issue is not discussed enough. The Buffalo Bills and Wegmans are doing their part to support food-insecure families with food allergies and special dietary needs.
From May 9-21, Wegmans is hosting a food drive that will encourage shoppers at local stores in Buffalo and Rochester to purchase specially selected items that are either free from the top 8 allergens or gluten-free. Once purchased, customers are encouraged to place the specially selected items in bins located at the front of the stores. All items collected will benefit FeedMore WNY (Buffalo) and Foodlink (Rochester).
This initiative is very close to head coach Sean McDermott and his family since his children suffer from food allergies.
“Before I had kids, I wasn’t very aware of or directly affected by food allergies or nut allergies in particular,” McDermott explained. “But once my two older children were born, my first was born with a nut and nut allergy and my second was born with a sesame allergy. My eldest has a severe food allergy, we used an EpiPen from first hand when my daughter has foods she is allergic to and it’s no fun, I can promise you that.
“And again, I think from an awareness point of view when we go back to school, we need to be aware of those underlying conditions and in particular, those people who are not affected need to be careful. to children in those rooms that are affected These can be serious and, in some cases, fatal.
According to the CDC, 26 million adults and 1 in 13 children are affected by food allergies. These allergies can trigger a reaction in the body that can be as mild as an upset stomach, but can be as severe as hives and anaphylactic shock.
McDermott and his wife, Jamie, had to learn about the EpiPen and how to use it correctly. With nut allergies, even a trace can trigger the reaction.
“From a mother’s perspective, I can tell you that it affects our family and families with food allergies a lot,” Jamie McDermott explained. “There have been hard lessons learned over the years and as parents there is rarely a moment when you don’t think about them. Every meal, whether at home, at school, at the a friend’s party or at a restaurant, must be carefully prepared.”
Some of the specially selected items that can be donated are Wegmans Crispy Rice Cereal, Made Good Granola Bars, Wegmans Gluten Free Chickpea Shell Pasta, Daiya Mac & Cheeze Deluxe Cheddar and more. For the full list of allergen-free products, click here.
Food-insecure families struggle to get the adequate food they need for themselves and their children. Adding food allergies makes the process much more difficult. Unfortunately, for most families, food allergies are not often thought of until a parent or child suffers from them.
“I was one of you, one of them years ago before my children were born, is that really real?” said Coach McDermott. “And I can tell you it’s real. And I can tell you firsthand that my daughter in particular carries an EpiPen everywhere she goes, so she’s always prepared.”
This joint initiative by the Bills and Wegmans is just the latest example of the positive impact they are making to the community and those in need.
“We are very grateful to Wegmans and this partnership,” said Jamie McDermott. “It means a lot to us because we know we are not the only family affected by food allergies. If we can help just one family by making it easier or easier for them to shop or access safe food for their family, it’s worth it!”
If you’re looking for more food allergy resources, visit the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) website.