It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week

Gina Lee carries an epinephrine kit with at her at all times because it could save her daughter's life. The founder of Branford-based Food Allergy Education Network (FAEN) is working with the non-profit organization to champion anaphylactic reaction awareness in the community. As part of Food Allergy Awareness Week, FAEN compiled many activities and events, including
Gina Lee carries an epinephrine kit with at her at all times because it could save her daughter's life. The founder of Branford-based Food Allergy Education Network (FAEN) is working with the non-profit organization to champion anaphylactic reaction awareness in the community. As part of Food Allergy Awareness Week, FAEN compiled many activities and events, including "The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Fairytale Play" on Saturday, May 19, during which FAEN will also present local HERO awards, at The Village at Mariner's Point, 111 South Shore Drive, East Haven, from 2 to 3 p.m.

If you know May 13 to 19 is Food Allergy Awareness Week, it's likely because of Gina Lee and the Food Allergy Education Network (FAEN).

The founder of FAEN and its board are currently working to bring about critical programs like school access to emergency epinephrine and staff training. Where Guilford and Madison public schools already have policies and even training for bus drivers, last week FAEN met with Branford's Board of Education to review a policy that's being considered.

"We'd like to see a Food Allergy Task Force put in place," says Gina, adding, "Good things are happening, but it's not yet system-wide."

At Sliney, FAEN helped bring in hand soaps free of reactive triggers, stop use of recycled allergen food containers in art classes, and added an anaphylactic reaction poster to the cafeteria. In fact, if Gina had her wish, May 13 to 19 would be Food Anaphylaxis Awareness Week to drive home the critical nature of what some may view as simple childhood "allergies."

"Most people have some awareness, but little knowledge of the real facts," she says.

Peanut allergies "get the most publicity," she says, but there are eight top allergens: peanuts, milk (not lactose intolerance), eggs, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat (not gluten intolerance). Many children, including Gina's seven year-old Jillienne, are allergic to several foods. The stealthy nature of the allergies often results in diagnosis after anaphylactic reaction.

"The first exposure can't kill, but it's tricky because you usually don't know when your child was first exposed. The majority of all food reactions happen when your child ingests something you thought was safe."

At 2½, Jillienne had tested allergic to several foods, but not shrimp, until one day, one more piece tipped the scale.

"She was red and vomiting. Her face was 1½ times normal size," says Gina, who immediately suspected an allergy. Within minutes, "Her tongue was out of her mouth; she arched back and couldn't scream. She went limp and pale."

Gina called 911 and plunged an epi-pen into Jillienne's thigh. The medicine took effect, but in those seconds, "I remember thinking, 'I'm going to pass over my dead child and they're going to try to revive her.' The Branford EMTs came fast, but by the time they saw her, they had to ask what happened. I wish I didn't have to save my daughter's life, but that's literally what it was."

A former special education teacher, Gina knew of epi-pens and even asked an ER doctor about kits for infants after Jillienne suffered her first reaction as an eight month-old. The ER doctor didn't know if epi-pens for infants existed.

Through the Lees' pediatric allergist,"I found out they do have epi-pens for babies. I thought back to ER physician not knowing and that's when I realized, 'I need to get educated,'" says Gina.

In 2009, when Jillienne began attending Sliney (behind big sister Samantha), "having been a teacher, I thought, 'I have to send my daughter to school-we need to make some changes!' I put a flyer out and started a support group. The first meeting had three people?Now we have people from all over Connecticut."

Food allergies are a growing and serious public health concern. Nationally, one in 13 school children has a food allergy. FAEN hopes to see awareness, training, and assistance become a part of every community to keep these kids "safe and included," says Gina, who moved here with her husband Doug seven years ago.

"I moved to Branford because it's a family town. This affects so many aspects-schools, churches, sports teams?We're starting at schools and then we hope to move on to the greater community."

On Thursday, May 17, FAEN hosts a fundraiser/silent auction at SBC restaurant in Branford from 6 to 10 p.m., featuring food-allergy friendly light appetizers; families are welcome. For tickets ($10 per person, $40 per family) and information, email One hundred percent of proceeds benefits FAEN outreach programs. To learn more about FAEN, visit

Celebrating Food Allergy Awareness Week May 13-19th Branford Public Schools District-Wide Parent Education Night
On May 7th 2012 from 7pm-8pm the Branford elementary school PTA’s are hosting an informational session to inform and discuss with the community members issues regarding food allergies. Our special guest speaker with be Jamie Perillo, a LPC is a licensed child, adolescent, and family therapist, parent and wellness educator, mentor and behavioral consultant. Open to the public and free. Location: John B. Sliney Elementary School 23 Eades Street Branford CT.

Donate a Food Allergy Book!
Donate a book on behalf of your friend with food allergies! RJ Julia of Madison is supporting children and families with food allergies. Purchase one of the selected Food Allergy books between the dates of May 10 – 20 at RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT (in store only). 10%* of the sale of the book will be donated to the Food Allergy Education Network (FAEN) in Branford, CT on behalf of RJ Julia. Be sure to tell the bookseller when you purchase the book!

Take the book to your school library, your teacher, your day care provider, or the public library and donate it on behalf of your friend with food allergies! Don’t know where to share it?

You may leave the book at RJ Julia and they will give it to FAEN to distribute on your behalf! It couldn’t be easier.

*We are sorry, but booklovers discount will not apply.

Sunday May 13th
Area churches will be encouraged to share facts about food allergies. A fact sheet is available to download for free HERE.

Monday May 14th
10:30 am Willoughby Wallace Memorial Library in Stony Creek Connecticut will hold a Children’s story hour (FREE) with a food allergy theme.

Tuesday May 15th
Schools, preschools, and child care centers are encouraged to share a book or video about food allergies and how to be a “friend” to those with food allergies. Parents may also volunteer to present in their child’s school. Lesson plans and book suggestions are available via our website. FAEN will also be provide free “You could save a life…” posters to area schools upon request.

Wednesday May 16th
Legislator meet and greet at the Connecticut State Legislative Building in Hartford Connecticut with Governor Dannel Malloy, Senator Ed Meyer and Representative Pat Widlitz. RJ Julia, Madison: Erica Reid, “The Thriving Child” 7pm
Raising children in today’s toxic environment can leave many parents with unanswered questions. Where medicine stalled and failed to provide results, one mother’s efforts to overhaul her family’s diet led to a restructured approach to raise a healthy family in a poisoned world.
It took months of doctors visits and several illnesses for Erica Reid to uncover that her young son had multiple allergies and serious asthma. Her daughter, who had suffered from skin irritation since birth, was diagnosed with food allergies as well. Thus began a cautious, thoughtful journey to more doctors and led the author to totally re-vamp her family’s diet, “de-tox” her home, and, as her children grew older, coordinate healthy routines for school and travel.
Along the way, Reid developed complementary child-rearing strategies promoting respect, responsibility, creativity, spiritual balance, and love. From heath and nutrition to discipline and spirituality, Reid schooled herself in every area that is part of creating a totally healthy environment in which a family can flourish. THE THRIVING CHILD also includes in-depth prescriptive advice from top experts, including doctors, and celebrity mothers.
This event is FREE. 10% of each book sold benefits FAEN. Click here to reserve your spot!
Thursday May 17th
10:30am – RJ Julia Preschool Story Hour …. How to be a friend to someone with Food Allergies – scheduled, see HERE for details. (FREE)
6pm -10pm Fundraiser/Silent Auction at SBC in Branford Connecticut. Cost is $10 per person and $40 per family. We will have food allergy friendly light appetizers. Families welcome .Please email for tickets and more information. 100% of money collected will benefit Food Allergy Education Networks outreach programs.
Friday May 18th
10am – Parent/Child Workshop at Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford CT (FREE) will feature a FAEN representative to answer parent questions regarding food allergies.
Saturday May 19th
2 pm – 3pm The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Fairytale play, written by Sue Gantz and adapted by Robin Comey featuring the Friends of Food Allergy Players will be held at the The Village at Mariners Point 111 South Shore Drive East Haven CT. FAEN will present the HERO Awards recognizing children, businesses and caretakers that strive to make children with food allergies safe and included in all aspects of our community.
Thursday May 24th
7pm – The Rights of the Food Allergic Child in the School Setting: Section 504 of the ADA, a workshop with Attorney Larry Berliner
SARAH in Action, 51 Boston Post Rd., Madison Presented by SARAH, Inc. KIDSTEPS Family and Children’s Center and The Food Allergy Education Network
Register with Kathy Fadel at KIDSTEPS Family and Children’s Center at (203) 453-7592 ext. 2 or
### If you would like more information about the specific upcoming events in celebration of Food Allergy Awareness Week or for interviews, please contact Gina Lee at or by phone at 203-206-3141.


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