Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

Kids' Congress on Capitol Hill

FAAN's Teen Ambassadors pose for a picture on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Photo by Spontanaeity, Kristin Dahl.More than 15 FAANTeens from around the country recently traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in the inaugural FAAN Kids’ Congress on Capitol Hill, held October 18 and 19. The teens, part of a group of more than 70 kids with food allergies, served as FAAN’s Junior Ambassadors, educating legislators about what life is like for the millions of children who have a food allergy.

The Junior Ambassadors met with their U.S. senators and representatives and asked that they support food allergy research and The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2005 (H.R. 4063), a bill aimed at keeping food-allergic students safe at school.

”It felt like I was really making a difference‚ ” said Becky‚ 14‚ allergic to peanuts and soy. “None of the staff I talked with knew very much about food allergies‚ but when they heard my stories and experiences‚ it helped them realize how worthwhile this cause is.”

Abby, 14, agreed. “They were shocked about what could happen to us and that we were taking a risk every time we ate something.” Abby, allergic to eggs and tree nuts, met with two senators and two representatives, one of whom, Rep. Ray Lahood (R-IL), has agreed to cosponsor the bill. After meeting with FAAN’s Junior Ambassadors, numerous other representatives have also pledged their support. Several senators have expressed interest in supporting the bill as well.

In between meetings, the teens took advantage of the opportunity to sightsee around Washington, visiting popular tourist attractions such as the Smithsonian museums and the U.S. Capitol building. Many of them also said the highlight of their trip was getting to hang out with other teens who have food allergies.

“My favorite part of Kids’ Congress was meeting other kids with food allergies from across the country,” said David, 15, allergic to milk, fish, and tree nuts. “Previous to the Congress, the only kids I had known with food allergies were all from the Northeast. Even though I have allergies, meeting all of these kids really drove home the fact that people from all walks of life have them. New York to California, Missouri to Alaska, they were all there.”

"It was nice knowing that I am not the only one out there who has a food allergy‚ ” Abby said.

Earlier this year, FAAN invited kids and teens between the ages of 6 and 18 to apply to come to Washington and participate in the inaugural Kids’ Congress. The winners were selected on the basis of essays they wrote and videotapes they recorded of themselves talking about how food allergies have impacted their daily life and why the federal government should support food allergy research. For many, it was their first time visiting the nation’s capital and meeting with members of Congress.

“I liked the fact that I spent both days going from meeting to meeting around the Capitol, since I hope to have a career in politics one day!” David said.

Marissa, 16, allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds, agreed. “I felt very privileged to be able to participate in such a unique opportunity to articulate an issue that directly impacts my life and needs to be publicized.”

Want to know more?

Visit our main site to download a copy of The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act and to check on the progress of the bill.

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