The best way to prevent food allergy reactions is to stay away from known allergens. This may sound simple. But it is much more complicated than that. You have to know how to identify foods your child is allergic to and understand how foods are labeled.
This means if your child has food allergies, you have to be sure they eat safe foods and other caregivers know how to manage their food allergy. Because of this, the foods you have access to may be limited.
For some families managing food allergies, the challenges are greater because of structural racism and food insecurity. Both factors have the most disproportionate impact on Black Americans and other groups.
According to Feeding America, Black American households cope with hunger at twice the rate of white, non-Hispanic households. One in four Black children face hunger on a regular basis.
Employment and financial discrimination also play roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate in the U.S. for Black Americans is higher compared to the general population. This feeds a deeper racial wealth gap. And it puts Black Americans at a greater risk of starving.
Housing bias and lack of investment in communities of color stack barriers even higher. Black, Indigenous, Hispanic Americans, and other underserved groups are more likely to live in areas known as “food deserts.” A food desert is a community where it is hard to find good and nutritious fresh food.
Food insecurity is a lack of “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
This puts families of color in double jeopardy. Lack of equal access to safe foods means an even greater risk of severe allergic reactions. And children with multiple food allergies may not have access to the variety of safe foods they need for a balanced nutritious diet.
RELATED CONTENT: In many cases, food allergy and asthma coexist. Disparities in food allergy are also correlated to some of the same disparities in asthma. Read more in AAFA’s “Asthma Disparities in America” report.
What Is the Role of Nutrition and Food Insecurity in Asthma and Allergies?
The New England Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) hosted a webinar called “Health Care Disparities in the Asthma and Allergy Community.” During the webinar, they talked about the role of both nutrition and food insecurity in asthma and allergies. AAFA and groups like the Food Equality Initiative (FEI) are working to address food insecurities to reduce health inequities among racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. FEI works to improve access to allergy-friendly and gluten-free foods and end hunger among vulnerable groups.
The speakers from this excerpt were:
- Lakiea Wright, MD, MAT MPH, Associate Physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Allergy and Immunology, and Medical Director of U.S. Clinical Affairs in the Immuno-Diagnostics Division at Thermo Fischer Scientific
- Margee Louisias, MD, MPH, Director of Diversity and Inclusion with the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
1. Bilaver, L. A., Kanaley, M. K., Fierstein, J. L., & Gupta, R. S. (2021). Prevalence and correlates of food allergy among medicaid-enrolled united states children. Academic Pediatrics, 21(1), 84-92. doi:10.1016/j.acap.2020.03.005
You can also join our mission to promote pathways for equity in food allergy care resulting in healthier outcomes.
Have you faced or seen racial or ethnic bias in food allergy care? Share your story so health care providers and communities can learn from you. Are you a community leader or health care provider working on solutions? We want to hear what motivates you to help marginalized groups living with food allergies. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Follow us on social media, tag us, and use the hashtag #HealthEquityNOW to help raise awareness, get involved, and share your reasons why this is a key concern for you.
You can also donate to support our community outreach, research, programming, and policy work to help put an end to disparities in food allergies.
Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) is the food allergy division of AAFA.