I have 35 years’ experience within the Catering Industry and over the last few years I have seen a significant rise in the number of special dietary requirements for customers eating out. I also have seen for myself the impact that suffering with an allergy or food intolerance has on a person’s daily life.
I was Head of Catering at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) for over 9 years and whilst we were adapting to the new laws relating to allergies I suddenly had to cope with my daughter, 15 years old at the time, suffering with reactions to food groups. Sophie, in her GCSE year at school, suffered reactions to food that kept her off school for at least 3 days at a time. This affected her attendance and added to the stressful GCSE exam period.
Now 18 years old and having just completed A levels, her restricted diet has helped her to stabilise her health. Her diet is now gluten free, lactose free, no potatoes and no maize and it is quite complicated to find foods to suit, but with imagination we now have quite a good set of “go to” recipes.
I had not really appreciated that food allergies affect your daily life in such a way, and University students are a particularly vulnerable group. Students are away from home adjusting to independent living and cooking and shopping for themselves. Not wanting to appear different and trying to eat out become a cause for concern and this can be a challenge.
I am so passionate about making a difference, I decided to leave my employment at MMU to set up my own business and work with Allergen Accreditation to support Food Business Operators to ensure they are providing allergy free food in a safe environment.
The #onemcpeakechallenge has been launched to highlight the issues faced by an allergy sufferer on a daily basis. Eating out, shopping and cooking all have to be undertaken with an extra level of care. I set the challenge to my team previously at MMU and it proved to be a very successful exercise.
All participants will remove one key allergen from their diet for 2 weeks and report their experiences back, good and bad. We are particularly interested in engaging those in the catering industry so that they have a better understanding of their allergy customer’s needs.
The money raised will provide much needed funds for the Anaphylaxis Campaign to support those with severe allergies and anaphylactic reactions. This challenge has already been well received by the Free From community.
The #onemcpeakechallenge has now gone live to allow participants time to plan and organise for the 2 weeks in September. The Challenge will take place from 1 to 15 September and everyone is encouraged to join in, or just donate.