When Kim Smith of Cincinnati, Ohio, saw a child eating a peanut butter sandwich on the playground at her local park in the summer, she immediately left with her daughter because she worried about cross-contact. It’s a feeling many food allergy parents can relate to.
Smith’s 3-year-old daughter Parker is severely allergic to peanut, tree nuts and unbaked egg. “When Parker was first diagnosed, my husband and I were overwhelmed,” Smith told Allergic Living. “I felt that researching safe foods, recipes and brands would help us gain a feeling of control and decrease the immense amount of stress I was feeling trying to keep my baby safe.”
That summer day after Smith left the park with her daughter, she started her research. In addition to safe foods, Smith wanted to do something within her community to spread awareness about the dangers of cross-contact and the severity of food allergies.
“I was inspired by articles about parents that worked with their communities to install [park] signs,” said Smith. “I wanted to try it as well.” She was particularly struck by an article Allergic Living published about a mom in Traverse City, Michigan, who lobbied for park signs with warnings about food allergies and the need for hand-cleaning. Smith emailed her mayor and city council and included the article.
The council members responded by inviting Smith to attend a council meeting to introduce the topic, which they would review. “Thankfully, keeping children safe to the best of our ability as a community is a relatable topic,” she notes.
Smith made her case persuasively: there are now signs at two parks and at a pool that say: “Did you know 1 in 13 children has a food allergy? You can keep our children safer with these simple steps: 1. No food or drink on playground equipment. 2. Clean your hands after eating.”
The Ohio mom realizes that the older Parker gets, there will be new challenges. “There will undoubtedly be situations where she will feel excluded or upset about being different,” she said. “I’m hopeful that the experiences where she feels supported by family, friends and her community will be the more impactful life memories.”
“I want my daughter to know we will always be her biggest advocates!”