Women Advance Food Allergies
According to research, food allergies occur more often in women. With higher rates of women affected, it is no surprise that women continually push the food allergy community forward. Whether it be food allergy moms, allergists, allergy-friendly business owners, or even allergy influencers- women are making a significant impact on the food allergy space. March is Women’s History Month, so what better time to recognize a few of the many women who are making the world a better place for those impacted by food allergies?
Merrill Debbs is a co-founder of the non-profit organization, Red Sneakers for Oakley (RSFO). Debbs tragically lost her son, Oakley Debbs, to an anaphylactic reaction in 2016. Since then, Merrill and the Debbs family have dedicated their lives to spreading vital food allergy education through RSFO with the goal of preventing tragedies like Oakley’s. Oakley was known to wear his favorite red shoes everywhere he went, and thanks to RSFO, red sneakers have become a symbol of food allergy awareness.
Susie Hultquist is a food allergy mom, and Founder and CEO of the food allergy app, Spokin. As written on their website, Spokin is “a trusted, solution-based resource providing a combination of content, community, and tools all with the common goal to make it easier, faster, and safer to manage food allergies.”
Restaurant reviews from food allergy families, verified brands, and travel guides are just some of the many resources that Spokin offers users. Food Allergy Institute is a verified brand on Spokin thanks to Hultquist’s belief in the program. Hultquist works hard to get in-depth, accurate information for those with food allergies so that they can make informed choices that keep them safe. Hultquist was featured in “The Peanut Problem” episode of the Netflix documentary series Rotten. She’s also a co-founder of a successful fundraising campaign that supported the 2008 Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) Chicago location.
Cooper Kammel is a TIP graduate and author of the children’s book, “I Can.” Through her book, Kammel hopes to share her journey and encourage others to focus on what they can do. Kammel says, “Growing up with food allergies was very challenging and it took a toll on my body, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have since turned all this trauma into motivation to help others.” A recent high school graduate, Kammel is looking forward to a bright future in psychology where she hopes to offer her knowledge and experience to others.
Amanda Orlando is a food allergy blogger, photographer, an author of three cookbooks, and the founder of food allergy centric Free to Be Me Events Company. Her cookbooks include Easy Allergy-Free (2022, Rockridge Press), Everyone’s Welcome (2019, Touchwood Editions), and Allergen-Free Desserts (2015, Skyhorse publishing). Orlando is a passionate food allergy advocate, who first started blogging after finding a lack of non-medical food allergy representation in the blogging space. On her blog, “Every Day Allergen Free,” she focuses on “inspiring confidence” in food allergy teens and young adults. Orlando’s first food allergy centric event is a food allergy wellness retreat located in Toronto, Canada, on April 14th and 15th, 2023.
Kathlena Rails, also known as The Allergy Chef, opened an award-winning bakery, published six cookbooks, and created over 600 recipes and allergy resources on her website RAISE. While she has over 200 allergies and intolerances herself, Rails works hard to help people with food allergies discover foods they can safely have, even if she can’t eat the food she creates.
Rails pushed through a lot of hardships as a child to get where she is. Even now, her diet is limited, and she needs to wear a full-face respirator to go outside. Despite this, Rails writes on her website, “10 years ago, I never knew this allergy world existed. Now, I’m determined to make it a better one. My dream is to make it so there isn’t another kid that gets looked over, and that we can stop these problems before they start.” Through her blog, “The Allergy Chef,” Rails provides resources to those with food allergies and intolerances that include cookbooks and one-on-one consulting.
Natalie Rice and Detective Harley
Natalie Rice decided to get her peanut-allergic daughter a food allergen detection dog named Harley after a bullying incident. Harley is a golden retriever trained to detect trace amounts of peanuts. Rice created the social media sensation Detective Harley, F.A.D.D. (Food Allergen Detection Dog), during the pandemic when she started posting videos of Harley working. While we were all stuck at home, Harley had to keep her skills up.
Rice posts videos on social media showing how Harley alerts for peanuts. First, Harley will sniff an item for peanuts. Then if something is clear of peanuts, she makes eye contact with Rice. If the item has peanuts, Harley will touch Rice’s leg with her paw. Rice also posts videos of herself, Harley, and Harley’s brother, Joey, with general information about food allergies. Rice writes on their website of their social media presence, “We saw so many positive responses, but also negative ones. It was the negative responses that made us realize the enormous lack of understanding of food allergies and that they need to be taken seriously.” Together, Rice and Harley make food allergy awareness fun and easy to understand for all.
Sidney Price is an active TIP mom with two boys and is the owner of the allergy-friendly restaurant, Noble Bird Rotisserie. The Price family created Noble Bird Rotisserie – located in Long Beach, CA – with the goal of creating an allergy-friendly and transparent dining experience. They have an allergen menu online that breaks down all the ingredients and possible cross-contamination. Staff are also well-versed and trained on how to cook for those with food allergies. She also documents the ups and downs of treatment on her instagram @fighting_for_food_freedom.
Melanie Hohman is a food allergy mom and the Owner and Head Baker at the allergy-friendly bakery, Sensitive Sweets. Located in Fountain Valley, CA, Sensitive Sweets is free of gluten/wheat, dairy, egg, peanut, soy, and nuts. They are also fully vegan. Hohman’s youngest son Bradley was diagnosed with severe food allergies at about 9 months old. Hohman writes about herself, “I know I am not the only one in the world to have a son with severe food allergies and so I wanted to start this business to share what I have learned and provide something for those kids and adults who have limited options in their diet.” Hohman’s drive to create a safe and delicious birthday cake for Bradley ultimately turned into what the bakery is today.
Tamara Hubbard, LCPC
Tamara Hubbard is a licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who specializes in food allergy counseling. She is also the founder and CEO of The Food Allergy Counselor, Inc, which is a resource for food allergy families to find food allergy therapists in their state. Food allergies have a lot of emotional and mental health implications, but finding therapists who understand the complexity of the food allergy experience can be difficult.
Hubbard has done so much for the food allergy mental health space. She is the creator and host of the podcast “Exploring Food Allergy Families,” founder of the Food Allergy Behavioral Health Network, and developer of allergy-specific concepts and worksheets. Hubbard has advisory roles within various allergy and healthcare organizations, has spoken/ presented at many different seminars and national conferences, and is currently working on her first book.
Dr. Tracy Clark
Dr. Tracy Clark is the Vice President of Clinic Services at Food Allergy Institute. She attended Vanderbilt University Medical School for her medical education and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for her Pediatric training. Clark says, “The experience at Food Allergy Institute is unlike any other, both for the patients and the physicians.” She spent more than 10 years tending to Dr. Randhawa’s hospitalized patients while working at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach. Since 2018, Clark has focused on helping treat food allergies at the Food Allergy Institute.
Tina Abatayo is the Director of Clinical Operations at Food Allergy Institute. She’s worked in healthcare operations for her entire career and joined FAI last April. She says that she is largely influenced by her sister Juaniece who tragically passed away from COVID in 2021. Abatayo says her sister was always known for having a positive impact on those around her. After her sister passed, Abatayo realized that she wanted to be a part of something where she felt she could make a difference too.
Abatayo came to learn about FAI and the impact of food allergies through her Vice President at the time, who had a child working through TIP. When FAI had an open position that Abatayo qualified for, she decided to apply. She says, “ I wanted to be a part of what is happening with patients and families here at FAI and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this organization.”
Kylene (Ky) Garcia, LVN
Kylene Garcia is the Clinic Manager of the Translational Pulmonary Immunology Research Center (TPIRC) and the Clinic Officer Manager to the Lung and Allergy Health Associates (LAHA). She oversees the clinic functions such as clinic work flows, state compliance, and communication with insurances to assist patients in receiving medication. Garcia says, “Our goal is to provide quality healthcare and treatment of rare and orphan diseases.” She says she is most inspired by the following women: Maya Angelou, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Martha P. Johnson, and her mom.
Anh Duong is a Senior Research Associate who manages and maintains the lab at TPIRC. She oversees the bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) mouse model in collaboration with USC laboratory. Duong says, “I am still in a thirst to be a part of novel discoveries in food allergies and in orphan diseases to help the children who are our future. They deserve our best effort.” She has been in biological research for more than 25 years, and also currently runs tests that contribute to FAI patient profiles. In addition to running experiments and analyzing data, Duong also trains scientists, fellows, volunteers, technicians, and anyone else interested in lab work.
Jaclin Carrillo is a TIP mom to Jess, a current intern and patient at the Food Allergy Institute. Carrillo has always been a source of emotional support to her allergic daughter. Like so many food allergy moms out there, Carrillo spent many nights modifying recipes and trying to create baked goods late at night just so Jess wouldn’t have to be left out on a last-minute school event. Carrillo was the first advocate that Jess ever had, and she did a great job fiercely protecting her allergy child until she was old enough to take over the management of her allergies herself. Jess manages most of her TIP treatment herself, but Carrillo is always there at each appointment cheering her on. Jess wouldn’t be where she is today without the love and support of her allergy mom.