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What Would You Pay to Prevent Cancer?

August 27, 2010 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien for the AllergyKids Foundation August 26, 2010

A friend just lost both of her breasts to cancer. In a matter of days, they were gone. Just taken off in a double masectomy. And upon completion of her surgery, she was then told that her breast cancer was invasive.

Needless to say, it stopped me in my tracks. Because she is a mom of two boys, someone that I see everyday and we’ve been in it together for the last five years with kids in the same school, on the same soccer teams and with the same allergies. So as she was diagnosed and disfigured, all I could think is “There by the grace of God, go I,” since today, 1 in 8 women have breast cancer, yet only 1 in 10 of those cases are genetic (meaning 9 out of 10 breast cancers are environmentally triggered).

Because like my friend, I wasn’t raised a foodie or an environmentalist. I grew up going to KFC, loved ordering Dominos in college and nuked my kids’ plastic bottles in the microwave when they were babies. I didn’t know I had an “environmental footprint”, and I didn’t want anyone telling me what to eat or how to feed my kids. All I cared about was managing costs and convenience.

And then one of our kids got sick. And I suddenly realized that our cost benefit analysis hadn’t captured everything. We had ignored the total cost model of cheap food. The less money I spent in the grocery store, the more we were spending in the doctor’s office. The less time I spent on health, the more time I spent in the checkout line in the drugstore. There was a direct correlation. And I suddenly realized that we were paying a high price.

But as a stay at home mother of four small children no longer bringing in a salary, and obviously not contributing to the top line as I had been when I was earning an income, I was mindful that the contribution that I could make to our financial situation was to help manage costs so I’d done everything I could to keep the food costs down. And as our own family recognized that contribution, with a laser like focus on the top line, I realized that it was indicative of a pervasive mentality.

In our focus on the “cost” of food, we had justified our penny saving and our exemption of prevention, failing to value it. But as our children got sicker, I thought, “What if our kids got so sick that savings didn’t matter?” As the high costs of cheap food took its toll, had we been overly concerned with the “cost” of prevention rather than focusing on its “value”?

In a world that values the dollar over just about everything else, we are often judged by the amount of money that we bring to the table. How much revenue are you generating? What does your top line look like?

But what dollar value should we put on prevention?

As I reflected on this question over an email to the friend with breast cancer, and in her case, it is genetic, I couldn’t help but wonder what dollar amount she would put on prevention. Or what her children would pay to have their mother’s health back. Or how much her husband would have paid, had he been given the choice, to prevent the breast cancer in the first place, and the emotional and physical costs that come with it.

What would our family pay? If given the chance to prevent cancer, would we prioritize the food budget over the entertainment budget? Or weekly fresh produce over monthly digital cable? Absolutely.

Perhaps it is time that we do this as a country. And rather than dismiss prevention as a passionate pursuit by those with the “luxury” to afford it, perhaps we should value it for the contribution that it will bring not only to the health of our families but also to the health of our economy and our country.

To learn more about the precautionary measures that you can take to protect the health of your family, visit the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org

“Someone Call 911!”

August 26, 2010 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Sonia Hunt of Noie Productions for the AllergyKids Foundation August 26, 2010

I can’t really recall the first or second time. I was too young to remember. Probably didn’t understand what was going on. But the third and fourth are vivid in my head. Public places; all eyes on you. You’re having a grand time one minute, enjoying every morsel that touches your lips and then a slight tingling from your toes stretches up towards your brain and increasingly becomes intense. That feeling as you slowly start to gasp for air, as if you lost your regulator 60’ down and now are trying to get to the surface being chased by a great white. Red panic ensues on your face and on others. Fading in the distance are sounds of confusion and yelling. ‘Someone call 911!’ ‘Does she have her Epipen?’

Aaah, food allergies. If you’re lucky enough someone injects you with your EpiPen, scoops you up in their arms and rushes you to the ER where next thing you know you’re being poked and prodded by a hot doc. Wishful thinking. If you’re not lucky, well, it could be fatal.

I am the only one in my immediate family with allergies to certain foods so severe that I could die. I am the kid with asthma. I am the kid who can’t eat peanuts. Baskin Robbins move over, because I have 31 flavors of food allergy. I am a face of the new generation.

Somehow my allergy list continues to grow, as I get older. Three years ago my allergist told me that I was the most allergic patient he had that year. I think I deserve a plaque on his wall in the shape of a peanut or something. New ones appear and old ones remain. And the force effect that some have on my body, actually rocks my world. But you’d never know it if you looked at me. I am probably one of the healthiest people you will meet. An athlete with resting heart rate of 46, who trys everything, watches her portions and eats in moderation. I train hard and run races. I bike, hike, dive, swim, surf, kiteboard, snowboard…what else is there? Oh, did I mention I’m shooting a Food+Life/Style show where I eat for a living? Something is wrong with this picture.

How these came about I don’t know. Why these are getting worse, I have some ideas. How do I control them? One day and meal at a time. Even with precautions we live in a world where unhealthy and processed food is a fad, organic and farm-to-table is still not affordable for the masses and wait staff still don’t know the ingredients in your lunch. The science behind the testing and medications are clear and sometimes a thumb in the air. I could totally stop eating but my mother already complains that I’m too skinny.

As a kid with food allergies, life is tough. You’ve gotta fend for yourself when you’re not with a parent and trust that what someone is telling you is in that dish, actually is correct. It’s hard being kid in society today, let alone ‘that’ kid who is the reason why your friends can’t bring PB&J to school or have peanuts on the airplane. Food allergies are a like a big sundae of social pressures, self esteem issues topped with a poor eating habits as the cherry on top.

I learned how to cook at a young age mainly because it’s a part of my culture and partly to ‘fend’ if I ever needed to. My mom cooked with fresh ingredients from the markets and read labels for her problem middle child. I’ve spent my entire life traveling the world, cooking and eating and enjoying every bit of it. I read, learn and experiment with food, and I ask questions. But mainly I do not let my allergies run my life. My mantra is that “if I’m going out, it better have been a damn good meal” and maybe in the arms of Johnny Iuzzini. Oh Johnny. To me, my food is my lifestyle and having a healthy body, mind and spirit is so much more than what we eat. It’s a state of being.

So after many trips to the ER, dealing with places that don’t take proper precautions and a culinary world full of celebrity, I decided to stir things up a bit, started a production company and shot a pilot Food+Life/Style web series. After a successful career in Digital Media Technology, this venture is my journey. To share my love of the culinary arts and the stories that brings them and their people together. There are so many wonderful people out there doing incredible things in the culinary arts that absolutely take the health and well being of their patrons very seriously, down to each and every ingredient and allergy. I want to tell their stories, thru my eyes and their food.

I’m hoping to drive a new way to interact with the information and to interest, amuse, inform, question and maybe even change your perspective on the food we eat and how we eat it. Although we didn’t shoot a show based on food allergies, I find that more and more people connect to me because they have a similar story. And for those kids out there that feel ‘different’ because of their allergies, just stick with me kid, and together we’ll be all right.

Hoping that one day there is enough awareness to make real and definitive change, like changes in our manufacturing processes or an even peanut vaccine? A girl can only dream.

Sonia Hunt is the Founder+CEO of Noie Productions, an independent media production company spawning organic, innovative & chic culinary media. Watch the trailer to her new Food+Life/Style series at http://soniahunt.com

What’s in Fast Food Chicken? (Hint: It’s NOT Chicken)

August 24, 2010 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Shiloh Urban & submitted to the AllergyKids Foundation by Organic Authority August 23, 2010

Frying chicken is fairly simple, if a little messy. You dip pieces of chicken into a mix of egg and milk, roll them around in flour and spices, then cook the chicken in sizzling hot oil until the pieces are brown, crispy and delicious.

But wait! Don’t forget to add a dash of dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent made of silicone that is also used in Silly Putty and cosmetics.

Now add a heaping spoonful of tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), which is a chemical preservative and a form of butane (AKA lighter fluid). One gram of TBHQ can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse,” according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives. Five grams of TBHQ can kill you.

Sprinkle on thirteen other corn-derived ingredients, and you’re only about twenty shy as many ingredients as a single chicken nugget from McDonald’s. And you were using pulverized chicken skin and mechanically reclaimed meat for your chicken, right?

No one in his or her right mind would cook chicken like this. Yet every day, hoards of Americans consume these ingredients in Chicken McNuggets, which McDonalds claims are “made with white meat, wrapped up in a crisp tempura batter.”

However chicken only accounts for about 50% of a Chicken McNugget. The other 50% includes a large percentage of corn derivatives, sugars, leavening agents and other completely synthetic ingredients, meaning that parts of the nugget do not come from a field or farm at all. They come from a petroleum plant. Hungry?

Scariest perhaps is the fact that this recipe is a new and improved, “healthier” Chicken McNugget launched in 2003 after a federal judge called the deep-fried poultry bites “a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook.” Also terrifying is the fact that these McFrankenuggets are overwhelmingly marketed to children who love their fun shapes and kid-friendly size.

While McDonald’s is of course the poster child for fast food ire, if you look at the nutritional information for chicken at any fast food restaurant, the ingredient list will be dozens of items longer than the egg, flour, chicken and oil recipe you might use at home.

Eating fast food is a habit, but it is one that you can break? No doubt you rarely plan to have a delicious meal at Arby’s for dinner, a lingering lunch at Carl’s Jr. or a special breakfast at the Burger King in the airport. It just happens. You are late, tired, hungry, broke, or all of the above. You have no time, and you must find something to eat before you crash. All of a sudden a bright, friendly sign beckons from the side of the road: Drive-through!

In five minutes you are happily chowing down on an inexpensive, filling meal. But don’t be fooled – the true cost of fast food does not come out of your wallet, but out of your body, your health, and your years on this earth.

You can break the unhealthy fast food habit: educate yourself about the true ingredients of fast food items, plan ahead for your meals, carry healthy snacks like nuts to ward off hunger and cook healthy chicken recipes at home. Convince yourself that fast food is the most disgusting stuff on the planet and is harmful to you and to those you love. After reading this, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Full ingredient list for a Chicken McNugget (from McDonald’s website):

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Full ingredient list for my mother’s fried chicken:

Bone-in chicken pieces, egg, milk, flour, canola oil, salt & pepper.

Want more information on green living tips and tricks and delicious organic food recipes? Sign up for the OrganicAuthority.com newsletter and get your free report How to Shop for Organic Foods on a Budget, brought to you by Laura Klein, Organic Cook and Green Living Expert.

Cooking For Isaiah: An inspired read full of courage and hope

August 15, 2010 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News, Uncategorized

Written by Robyn O’Brien August 13, 2010

Recently, I had the priviledge of reviewing a book. Not just any book, but an extraordinary book.

Written by the editor-in-chief of Everyday With Rachel Ray, Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-free and Dairy-free Recipes for Easy and Delicious Meals has the appearance of being just another cookbook for those dealing with food allergies and sensitivities. But it’s not.

It is exceptional…not for its recipes, nor for its famous author, nor for what it says…it is extraordinary because of what it doesn’t say.

It is the story of how one mother, abandoned almost everything that she knew and leveraged her unique expertise, to care for the health of her son and others like him.

As the reader quickly learns, the author, Silvana Nardone, is a career gourmet, a chef of Italian heritage who rose to the pinnacle of culinary success as the founding editor-in-chief of Everyday with Rachel Ray by developing exquisite, uncompromised recipes.

Despite having owned an Italian bakery and won over Rachel Ray with her biscotti, Silvana, like so many modern day moms, is thrown a curveball when her son, Isaiah, is diagnosed with food intolerances to gluten and dairy. As the diagnosis hits, Silvana reflects, “Gone were the days when I could pick him up from school and stop at a bakery for an afternoon snack” and her life changed.

And while food sensitivities and intolerances are dismissed by some in the medical establishment as an attention-seeking diagnoses, to others like AllergyKids Foundation’s medical board advisors Dr. Kenneth Bock and Dr. Joel Fuhrman, food intolerances are often a sign of underlying conditions and can be associated with behavioral and neurological conditions in some children. In other words, they are serious.

Yet rather than throw a pity party, start pointing fingers or develop a woe-is-me attitude, Silvana gets to work, leveraging her culinary expertise with her passion to protect her son. In Cooking for Isaiah, Silvana reflects on the foods of her upbringing, sharing funny memories of her grandma’s less-than-fresh veggies and her slight sugar obsession (which so many of us share). And without an ounce of self pity or regret, she sheds her former, gluten and dairy laden ways, in an inspired effort to heal her son. With a whisk in hand and a desire to heal, Silvana leads us through the culinary maze she navigated in a world in which food now threatens the health and wellbeing of our children and families.

With strength and courage, humility and humor, Cooking for Isaiah is an inspiring read, not only for the recipes that it provides, but for the hope that it brings to all of us. Because as Silvana writes, ” I am not a doctor. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a trained chef. I am not a food scientist. I am just a mom who wants to feed her kids.”

Given the epidemic rates of allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism, the simple act of feeding our kids now creates enormous challenges. And for that reason, Silvana Nardone is owed a debt of gratitude for her dedication.

With heartfelt strength and steadfast resolve, Silvana inspires us. Her labor of love to heal her son has produced an invaluable resource, not only in the recipes that she provides in Cooking for Isaiah, but also in the reminder that each and every one of us has the remarkable ability to affect change when it comes to the health of our children. One meal, one cookie, one mom at a time.

Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy and Delicious Meals will be available on August 26, 2010 at Amazon and booksellers around the country.

AllergyKids’ Foundation’s Chief Inspiration Officer Resigns


 •  Blog, Uncategorized

PRESS RELEASE: Boulder, Colorado – Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The AllergyKids’ Foundation’s Chief Inspiration Officer tendered her resignation today. Apparently, she plans to start kindergarten tomorrow.

Having served as the inspiration behind a movement to protect the 1 in 3 American children with allergies, ADHD, asthma and autism, Victoria O’Brien (also known as “Tory”) now plans to enroll in public elementary school to support the efforts of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and those of Renegade Lunch Lady Ann Cooper, particularly focusing on Ann’s new Salad Bar Project.

When asked what prompted her resignation, Ms. O’Brien said, “I am five, a big kid now, and I like salad.”

Ms. O’Brien has acted in several capacities for AllergyKids since its launch on Mothers’ Day 2006, serving as the Director of “Mom-Get-A-Clue,” Manager of Fake Food Research and most recently, given her promotion, as Chief Inspiration Officer.

With tireless dedication and a heart full of love, Ms. O’Brien has attended countless meetings with the organization’s founder, waited patiently on playgrounds while columns and books were written, and illustrated innumerable pictures of peace signs, hearts and flowers while phone calls were made and interviews held.

Her steady presence will be greatly missed, and the AllergyKids’ Foundation wishes her continued success in her upcoming endeavors which will include monkey bars, arithmetic and telling her classmates what’s in their food.

To learn more about our team at the AllergyKids Foundation and how you and your family can be part of our mission to protect our children, please click here.