Food Allergy CANpaign: The 4 “Rs”—reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic & resilience


I am JJ: Food allergy CANpaign, the 4 “Rs”—reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic & resilience

When you have a food allergy, things will happen at school. Someone will say something dumb regarding your allergy. Maybe they’ll try it. Maybe they won’t. But it will still hurt.

Someone will do something dumb. Food will get a little too close to you. Maybe it will be at a table or on a desk or on someone’s hands or all over the floor. Intentional? Unintentional? It’s still scary.

A well-meaning teacher will forget and do a creative lesson with a food item. An aloof teacher will offer a food reward and, after realizing she should not have done it, have to publicly pull it back. A substitute trying to win favor for 40 minutes will reach into her back of tricks and give the rowdy class a treat.

A test proctor will add additional anxiety to you and make sure everyone has breakfast for the big test — “Enjoy the donuts… and, because of his allergy, I brought in fruit for Freddy.”

You won’t be invited to a party or to an event or wherever.

You’ll see the peanut snack on the teacher’s desk. You’ll watch the kid in front of you who just sneezed into his hand pass your paper down the row. You’ll have to borrow a pencil… and then you’ll see the bite marks on the top of it.

And that’s why we need to add a fourth R to school — Resilience.

In a post earlier this year and yesterday for my Sunday CANspirational video, I talked about resilience. Are you textbook, a rubber band, or a bouncing ball?

The textbook hits the ground and doesn’t move. Slam.

The rubber band streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetches before snapping back to retain its original shape. It looks unaffected, but it doesn’t grow. Snap.

The bouncing ball harnesses the adversity and uses its momentum to bounce forward and higher!

One of the core tenants of living in the Land of Can is understanding and learning how to be resilient. It’s learning how to grow through adversity. It’s learning how to be the bouncing ball. Growing up, if I had let all food allergy setbacks shackle me — or if I just shrugged them off and didn’t use them to grow — I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have so far.

Instead of letting the adversity shackle your child, let them practice resilience. Teach them how to harness the adversity so they can use it to bounce forward and higher. A setback can’t set you back if you grow from it.

Over the course of this week’s Food Allergy CANpaign posts, I’ll be exploring resilience more in depth. It’s time to introduce kids with food allergies to the fourth R — Resilience. It’s time to bounce high.


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.