Congressional Food Allergy Advocacy
I’ve always been passionate about politics. Since I was little, I’d watch the news and try to figure out who was debating. Even in times of polarization and propaganda, I found an existential thrill in trying to take a bite at the United States’ political dilemmas and where I stood in terms of my own ideologies, which are always changing.
Something I always believed was that it was impossible for a teenager like me to actually have a voice in the government. With little to no contact with my own representatives, I knew what was happening in terms of political policies from afar, but felt like a bystander as others tried to press for the social and political change I deeply craved.
One year ago, that changed. I discovered FARE’s Grassroots Advocacy Committee, which deals with governmental affairs and builds relationships between FARE and members of Congress. By joining this committee (and being a Teen Advisor with FARE) I was able to attend Courage at Congress last March as well as meet with my representatives for the first time, discussing the FASTER Act. All the politics I had seen on TV became more real than they had ever been. I understood the politicization of my identity as a Hispanic and queer person. But, now I realized that, as a person with food allergies, it was possible to gain even more opportunities than I had before if I worked with others to advocate for them. The FASTER Act helps provide funding for new allergy treatments, and when I discovered this, I realized that there was an alternative to Oral Food Challenges, something I grew up loathing. Sharing this with Representatives gave them a completely new lens on how food allergies truly affect the lives of regular people like me.
Meeting with my representatives to discuss the FASTER Act was just the beginning. I have been able to briefly meet with Congresspeople about the Food Allergy Research Caucus which now has about 15 members (woohoo!) in the last few months. In the near future, I’m hoping to be able to discuss even more policies such as improved food labeling and better restaurant transparency requirements with representatives. Most of all, I hope to continue collaborating with others in policy change. Being a Congressional advocate has taught me the importance of collaboration in working towards change and sharing perspectives. Everyone I’ve met in this process has experienced something completely different, whether they have a kid with allergies or they work as a flight attendant and have to deal with allergic travelers. But, the one thing everyone has in common is a passion for making the lives of the food allergic better. I hope to help uplift the voices of others who have allergies through my advocacy group Allergy Teens in Congress (our Instagram is @allergyteensincongress) and give more teens and kids the chance to share with representatives the issues that matter the most to them.