I am JJ: An ingredient statement for kids with food allergies

Monday can.png

This post originally ran March 2018.

Any parent of a child with a food allergy quickly becomes an expert at reading ingredient statements. We in the FA world understand that the end product is almost always made up of smaller components.

And this isn’t just for food. There is incredible value in applying this same concept to things beyond what we eat.

As I prepared to write my book for children with food allergies, Land of Not, and as I prepared to launch an authentic blog for parents and children, I talked to a lot of professionals about what it takes for young people to live an asset-based life. “How do we get kids to define themselves by who they are and who they can be, instead of by who they’re not?”  

I kept hearing the following traits time and time again. These words became the basis for Can. Kids with food allergies contain CAN ingredients.

Here are the ingredients of Can.

  • Collaboration

  • Opportunity

  • Empathy

  • Grit

  • Resilience

  • Creativity

  • Perseverance

  • Leadership

  • Character

  • Integrity

  • Courage

  • Balance

  • Boldness

I am going to use my daily blog to advocate for young people living with food allergies and for the families who care for them. I believe all children should live in the Land of Can, but it’s even more vital for children with food allergies, because living with a food allergy introduces a young person to their “nots” far too early and far too often. In a nod to safety, children with food allergies confront their "nots" as a mode of survival. 

I said yesterday that knowing these words is better than winning the lottery. The lottery is temporary. Adapting a Can mindset is lifelong. This isn’t hyperbole. I see other people my age who have spent their childhoods living in The Land of Can. And these people are ready to take on the world! I’ve also seen the inverse. 

This is a message to all parents and educators and anyone who works with children. We must begin to empower young people, especially those who live with food allergies, to focus on "cans," not "nots." And we must do it sooner than later. 

Welcome to The Land of Can. 

JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at www.thelandofcan.com and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.