Food Allergy 101: A good lunch


What if my food allergy was a real, live person? And what if I could talk to him about what he's taught me over the years? Every Thursday, I get that chance...

Blog #257 — I was eager to meet Mr. A., my food allergy, for our weekly Food Allergy 101 talk.

“There he is!” I shout as he enters the coffee shop. I wave him over.

“You seem in a good mood,” he says, pulling up a seat.

I laugh. “I’m in a great mood.”

“Why are you so happy?”

“It’s been a good week,” I say. “I was at FARECon last weekend and am energized by everything I’m seeing from the food allergy community. It was an awesome conference with hundreds of people.”

“You’re happy because of a bunch of people at a conference eating free samples and talking.”

“You don’t get it,” I say. ‘They’re not just talking. They’re planning your demise.”

He shifts uncomfortably. “Whatcha you mean?”

I lean in. “Your reign of terror is coming to an end,” I say. “From the farthest corners of the world, people are working to destroy you. Researchers and Doctors and Parents and Teens and Businesses and Advocates mobilizing and using their minds and their creative talents and their voices to bring you down. We are raising money for research to destroy you from within. We are raising incredible awareness in schools and communities. And we are empowering those currently living with allergies to live stronger and more confidently and more deliberately.”

He waves me away as to dismiss me.

I continue: “There was a time when I was younger that I felt like I was the only one. Lonely, lonely days. I was stricken with anxiety. I was scared to go places, scared to touch things for fear that I could somehow die. You controlled every one of my thoughts. You bullied me. You taunted me. You owned me.”

He smiles. “I remember those days.”

“Those days are coming to an end,” I say. “There is an energy that is palpable. I saw it last week at FARECon. It will happen this weekend at FABlogCon. It happened last month at FAACT’s Teen Retreat. And it is happening everywhere with new research and new technologies and apps and groups and pockets of advocacy all working together.

He sits silently. I continue.

“And our advocacy will grow stronger and smarter and LOUDER every single day until we destroy you.”

Mr. A. doesn’t respond, and that’s OK. I know he heard my message. I hand him a menu from the table and intentionally change my tone.

“What are you hungry for today?” I say in a controlled voice. “Try today’s special. The chef made it for me earlier. It’s really, really good.”

 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 Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @thelandofcan.