There’s a lot of positive movement working against bullying right now. Unfortunately, there’s one type of bullying that many people haven’t heard of, and in it, food can be used as a deadly weapon.
In a report released late last year, nearly half of kids with food allergies say that they were the target of bullying, and a third of those say that it was over, or involving, food. There have been numbers of stories creeping into the news about children having allergens thrown at them or rubbed on them, and even more terrifying are the ones when you hear of children and young adults dying because of the way other people treat their allergy.
It appears to be a problem of ignorance. The GlutenDude recently went toe-to-toe with Disney for their portrayal of a gluten-free child in one of their television shows, “Jessie.” The child is portrayed as a nerd and whining inconvenience, and later the other kids throw their food at him. What truly shocked me though was Chelsea Handler’s weigh-in. I admit, I don’t have any problems with gluten, but I couldn’t finish watching the clip after taking gluten allergies seriously was described as “furthering the pussification of America.”
Good on you, GlutenDude, for drawing the line in the sand. We’ve got a long-haul ahead though, even just trying to protect the ones whose allergies could cause anaphylaxis and death. How do we expect the children to understand when many adults themselves respond with hateful comments like “how about you keep your sickly kid home? That is what homeschooling is for. (…) we don’t have to accommodate your sick kid.”
So yes… ignorance. Fortunately, the number of people who do really understand how serious an allergy can be is rising, but it’s a slow process. We all need to do more to explain to people and expand their awareness, and then I believe that the incidents of food bullying will begin to drop. There are some success stories of education and empowerment out there, including one from yesterday about a young man who decided to take a proactive approach, and stood in front of his class to discuss his food allergies:
“After explaining to the students that his food allergies are potentially life-threatening, the bully confessed that he thought the food “allergy” would only cause Scott to sneeze. He apologized! As a result, the classmate stopped his risky acts. But most importantly, Scott grew mightily from his personal choice to empower himself to make a difference and educate others.”
To get more information about food allergies and product alerts, visit www.foodallergy.org.