Earlier this year, 150 food allergy advocates from across the country joined FARE on Capitol Hill to push for plain-language labeling of sesame ingredients on packaged foods, and for much-needed federal funding for research to speed the development of effective food allergy treatments. FARE hosted this fly-in event to raise awareness among federal legislators and to encourage lawmakers to co-sponsor the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education & Research (FASTER) Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in 2019.

In the months preceding the fly-in, we built momentum for the FASTER Act by harnessing the passion of the food allergy families whose lives the bill would improve. We brought together members of Congress from both sides of the aisle along with constituents — primarily parents dedicated to protecting their children and young people learning to navigate a world in which everyone else’s sustenance is their poison. Despite the pandemic-related delays, we are making progress in adding truly bipartisan co-sponsors for the bill, since food allergy knows no party and impacts every region of the country.

Our efforts in March ushered forward 14 new FASTER Act co-sponsors for the House bill, as well as the introduction of a companion bill in the Senate (S. 3451) just one week following our meetings on the Hill. We were poised to help move the bill forward. And then the pandemic set in. But despite shutdowns across the country, when states began to reopen, the House added the FASTER Act, H.R. 2117, to its schedule for mark-up and saw the bill voted out of the Energy and Commerce Committee in mid-July. Our momentum continues.

I look at photos of our advocates on the steps of the Capitol with pride, but also with amazement at everyone standing so close together. Seemingly overnight, all our efforts shifted to online communications and virtual events. In this unprecedented year, the path forward is more complex than it was four months ago. Nonetheless, we continue to advocate for the FASTER Act, which has reached 92 co-sponsors in the House.

At the same time, our community is encountering new challenges in every facet of food allergy management — from temporary guidance from the FDA that relaxes labeling requirements (creating more anxiety as people struggle to feel confident that a food is safe for them to eat), to changes in how food will be managed in classrooms as the CDC offers recommendations for the reopening of schools this fall. In each of these instances, we continue to serve as a bridge between our patient community and the many institutions on which they rely to stay safe.

Despite all the unknowns, one thing remains clear and consistent: the dedication of our community and the tenacity of our colleagues. Whether it’s our corporate partners, medical researchers, advocates, support group leaders, or donors, there has been no pause for the food allergy community in its efforts to improve reality for 32 million Americans living each day with this disease. The goal to cure food allergies remains front and center, and perhaps that alone showcases the unique resilience of our community. For that we continue to march forward together.

Read the full article about engaging a vast community by Lisa Gable at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.