cookies with allergens crossed out on them

Nice Work, Allergy Aware Bake Sale Lady!

Sometimes, people with asthma also have food allergies. I don’t have food allergies, but I try to be as allergy-aware as possible. Recently, I went to a bake sale with my mom for her curling club (well, one of her two curling clubs—this would be the “out in the country” one!), and basically nobody puts on a bake sale like the country ladies. As I said to my mom and grandma, “Why do your own holiday baking when the ladies in the country can do it for you?”

Allergy aware bake sale?!

When I used to run a social justice fundraising/awareness group in high school (it was literally called Global Issues), we, of course, required our products to be nut-free. This does not happen everywhere, but at least one of these country ladies, though, was all over this.

Labels! Labels, my people!

“Mars bars - nut-free.” (America, I hear you are deprived of Mars Bars. Milky Way is the same; I’ve been very rapidly advised by my ex-pat cousin in the middle of his workday, as Mars Bars are a topic of extreme importance to him.)

And then, this gem.

A pan of

You go, gumdrop bar lady with your purple pen! I suppose we must make the assumption that the gumdrops are allergen-free and not cross-contaminated, which of course, is not an assumption that should ever be made when dealing with food allergies.

With that said, I am going to guess if someone had inquired of the gumdrop ingredients, the gumdrop bar baker probably would have extracted the gumdrop packaging from her purse. Because like, she bothered to write the ingredient list out for all her baked goods. It's sort of an activity that goes hand-in-hand with retaining the packaging because you know someone might want to read it later.

Allergy safe-r bake sale?

I completely understand why many people with food allergies won’t eat foods they haven’t prepared themselves or items that weren’t prepared by someone they trust. There are a lot of risks when you don’t know how well someone has cleaned their equipment, if their kitchen isn’t free of your allergens, or simply not seeing the ingredient labels on all the ingredients yourself.

But, I think the small actions this woman took are a really good start—even just to create a community that understands a bit more about food allergies. This step is simple and can help people feel safer, help them feel included in activities like bake sales, or even bringing baking into the office for celebrations like birthdays or holidays, or to a pot-luck. We simply never know how much of a difference taking a few minutes to write down an ingredient list (or cutting the back off a boxed mix and sticking it to the container you transport your food in!) might make to helping someone feel safe, by knowing what to avoid. It’s something I’ve tried to do when taking baked goods anywhere. It is honestly as easy as sticking a post-it note to the container so if someone asks, you have ingredients available for them.

If you have asthma and food allergies, how do you manage events like bake sales? Do you simply avoid them, or do you purchase items that you have verified should be safe? (And, is there anything else that people contributing to bake sales can do to help make decisions easier when it comes to safe treats?)

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