(BPT) - Bullying is never acceptable, but food allergy bullying — which happens when children and teens living with life-threatening allergies (LTAs) are teased, ridiculed or even threatened or assaulted with food to which they are severely allergic — is especially dangerous. On the surface, when one child waves, say, peanut butter in the face of a student with a severe peanut allergy, it may seem like just another form of childhood teasing. But to a child with LTAs, incidents like this can make school feel unsafe and escalate from emotional to physical bullying — which can even be life-threatening.
To bring attention to this issue and promote greater acceptance of those living with food allergies, leading allergy advocacy organizations, including Allergy & Asthma Network (the Network), Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT), Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) and Kids with Food Allergies (KFA), along with kaléo, are launching No Appetite for Bullying, an anti-bullying initiative. The campaign aims to make a positive impact on children with food allergies, by encouraging them, their parents, teachers
“The problem with food allergy bullying is people — whether children or adults — may not grasp the seriousness of this ‘teasing,’” according to Lynda Mitchell, Founder of KFA. “But kids who have food allergies live with a different reality: they know that one bite could lead to a serious allergic reaction.
Kaléo commissioned an omnibus survey of 1,000 parents of children in elementary through high school, including 750 parents of children without life-threatening allergies (LTAs) and 250 parents of children with LTAs to unearth gaps in knowledge and perceptions that exist around food allergy bullying. According to the survey, 82 percent of parents of children with LTAs who believe children are bullied due to food allergies think that their child has been bullied because of those allergies. However, nearly 80 percent of parents of children without LTAs surveyed indicated that they don’t think food allergies are a reason children are bullied.
Students between the ages of 13 and 17 are invited to visit www.NoAppetiteForBullying.com to join the No Appetite for Bullying Teen Coalition, which will work with the advocacy organizations and kaléo to share experiences, provide support, and discuss solutions to help end food allergy bullying.
“More adults should be aware of the seriousness of this problem so they can help create a safe, positive environment for food allergy sufferers to participate in school and other activities — like every kid deserves,” said Tonya Winders, President and CEO of the Network and mother of a 12-year-old girl who has been bullied due to LTAs.
What can you do?
Education and understanding are essential to change the dynamic around LTAs and food allergy bullying. Kids with food allergies are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they are entitled to the same education opportunities non-allergic children have.
Get on the same page: Educate your children about food allergies. If your child has been impacted by food allergy bullying, encourage them to join the No Appetite for Bullying Teen Coalition to unite with other students who also want to stand up against food allergy bullying.
Take action: Whether you witness this form of teasing or a child reports it to you, speak up! By sharing your story, you can help other students understand that food allergy bullying is potentially life-threatening and should not be tolerated.
Learn more: Visit www.NoAppetiteForBullying.com for more tips on how you can help students feel supported and safe outside the home.