Situation Food Allergy: Vending Machine Roulette.


Situation Food Allergy: Vending Machine Roulette

Blog #261 — Grandpa loves taking his grandson to the mall the first Saturday of the month.

“If it’s Saturday, it’s Pappy’s Day,” he announces when he arrives to pick up your 11-year-old son, Bobby.

Bobby loves Pappy’s Day, too. After all, even though they are only together for a few hours, Pappy spoils him with toys and games.

As you always do, you go over the rules about food.

“Remember, NO food,” you say before they leave. Bobby has a milk allergy, and while Pappy may be the most loving grandpa around, he isn’t the most diligent when it comes to the allergy.

“I know. I know,” he says. “And I’ll keep his AUVI-Q close.”

The day is a success. Later that night, though, as you are putting Bobby’s pants in the washing machine, you reach in his pocket and find a Jolly Rancher, still in the wrapper.

Bobby can eat Jolly Ranchers. But you’re concerned that he has food on him.

“Bobby,” you say. “Where did you get this Jolly Rancher? Why is it in your pants?”

He hesitates before finally telling you the truth.

“Pappy buys them from a vending machine at the mall,” he admits. “I never eat them. That’s why I put them in my pocket. I usually throw them away without Pappy seeing me but today I forgot.”

You can feel your heart-rate rise.

“Don’t say anything to him, Mom,” Bobby insists. “We get them every time, but I never eat them. Since they’re wrapped, and since I usually eat Jolly Ranchers when we are all at his house, he wouldn’t understand why vending machines are any different. It’s no big deal.”

What do you do?


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 and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.