Food Allergy Nation

In 2005, the year I started a tenure-track college teaching job, my daughter was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. We’d known she had allergies before this, but it wasn’t until she was twenty months old that we learned how extensive they were: dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and seeds.

Over the next six years, we learned how to feed and care for her, but it was a bumpy road. Several harrowing trips to the ER and a new allergist helped us realize the severity of her life-threatening allergies.

In 2011, my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease. I was in disbelief that we had to take away all of her favorite foods—bagels, pasta, and bread—because her body couldn’t process gluten. She already could not eat most of the world’s major foodstuffs. Why this, on top of everything else? I felt angry, confused, and alone.

That fall, I began writing about our experience with food allergies.

That project has since taken on a life of its own. Currently titled Food Allergy Nation, this book-in-progress looks at what life is like for the nearly six million food allergic children in the U.S. and their families. Encompassing the perspective of parents and children as well as doctors, scientists, public health experts, and other journalists, Food Allergy Nation provides the first account of this epidemic that places individual stories into greater sociocultural, historical, medical, and global perspective.

It considers the history of the disease and of allergic medicine, the impact of class on the ability of families to manage food allergies, and the reasons why food allergies are controversial (and, at times, stigmatized) in this country. Finally, it asks pointed questions about the impact of food allergies on families and communities, on our relationship with food, and on schools and faith-based institutions.