Friday Feature: Harriet Picker- Asthma and Food Allergy Activist and Educator

Harriet is a mom of two food allergic children in New York City. Learn about how she educates and advocates for those with allergies and/or asthma through our Q&A below:

FAA: What is your food allergy background?
I grew up with food allergies and asthma. Before having children, I was a teacher and then a health educator, focusing on teaching kids and parents about asthma. My older son was diagnosed with an egg and a dairy allergy at 15 months. My younger son who is now 2, is allergic to dairy, wheat, beef, nuts, soy, eggs, and legumes.

FAA: What are you passionate about in the food allergy field?
I am passionate about educating people about food allergies; I am also passionate about schools creating plans to deal with food allergies.

Many people only think nut allergies are the dangerous ones, I have to convince people that dairy, egg, soy and other allergies can be just as dangerous.

FAA: What else are you working on in the food allergy area?
My main goal is to get the NYC public school system to acknowledge the need for food allergy protocols.

I am not a fan of banning foods. However, precautions need to be put in place and a protocol established. I believe allergy tables, frequent hand-washing, and table wiping are a start. Concerning snacks, which is an issue in my school, I would end the “Shared Snack“ policy. For many reasons parents should send in their own snack for their own child. I would also suggest a birthday party notification policy. That way the parent of an allergic child can bring in something if needed.

Most importantly, staff development is necessary to teach all school staff about what food allergies are, what to look for, and the use of epi-pens. Each year teachers should ask incoming parents about food allergies and a class should establish its own policy.

Currently, I am discussing these ideas with a few allergists in NYC and with my school’s nurse. If anyone wants to contact me about this issue, find me on Twitter @Harriet75 or e-mail me at "Alisaha2@aol.com".

FAA: What are your favorite food allergy friendly food staples?
I have so many! I love rice flour, Vans wheat-free waffles, Southern homestyle corn flake crumbs, Enjoy Life boom-choco-boom dairy free rice milk crispy rice bars, all of the gluten-free Cherrybrook Kitchen cake and cookie mixes, potatoes, and rice pasta, My new favorite item, but it's hard to find, is Ricera rice yogurt.


FAA: What are some of your other interests/hobbies?
I love theatre, performing and directing! I studied theatre in college and I have a Masters in Educational Theatre. I developed an asthma program that went into NYC schools in which I combined my love for theatre and knowledge of asthma to teach kids about asthma. I love being able to combine my passions.

Thank you, Harriet, for working with schools, children and parents to create awareness around food allergies and asthma!
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