James and Becky Lasecki are always careful around peanuts.
“My husband is allergic to peanuts,” Becky Lasecki said. “Despite the fact that I love peanuts, I haven’t had one since I met him.”
The Farmington Hills couple’s son, Lukas, is allergic, too. at 6 1/2 years old, he’s in first grade at Wood Creek Elementary and one of 5.9 million children nation-wide who have food allergies, as estimated by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). when school started this year, the Laseckis went through more than the usual stress of preparation.
Lukas has multiple food allergies, his mother said. That has led the family to become very careful about everything they eat and to consume more locally sourced, organic products.
Those foods are a little more expensive, but overall, the family is eating healthier all the way around. “Over the past five and a half years, it’s just become a way of life,” Becky Lasecki said.
When the family travels, as they did to Chicago before school started this year, they try to find a hotel room with a kitchen, because they have to take food for Lukas. He’s allergic to soy, which is especially common in food items served at school, she added.
When Lukas started at Wood Creek, Becky admits, “I was terrified at first. He had eaten all of his meals with me.” she learned that Lukas and kids like him are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which meant the school had to accommodate him at lunch time.
Farmington Schools food service staff provided a binder with the ingredients of everything served in the cafeteria. “Literally, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of things what were ‘Luk-ey safe’,” Becky said.
Wood Creek is a “nut restricted school,” which means families are asked not to bring any food that might contain nuts into the school. To help other families, Becky Lasecki used her own knowledge to create a 22-page spreadsheet listing nut-free snacks and where they can be found. The district even posted a copy to its website.
Even trace amounts of nuts, soy or the other things Lukas reacts to can affect him. While Lukas has never had an allergic reaction – he was tested very early in his life – James Lasecki has had reactions ranging from hives to anaphylaxis, an acute, life-threatening condition whose symptoms include difficulty breathing and swallowing, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, palpitations, dizziness and fainting. because reactions differ, each one must be taken very seriously.
The family has recently become involved with FAAN to find support. The organization provides education and advocacy for people with allergies, and supports research into food allergies and anaphylaxis.
To support those efforts, the organization is holding the FAAN Walk for Food Allergy on Saturday, Oct. 22, 9:30 a.m. at Oakland Community College Orchard Ridge in Farmington Hills. everyone is welcome to come in costume and trick-or-treat for allergen-friendly goodies and prizes with games and activities. The Laseckis have had fun putting together a team to walk, but there’s another attraction for the event.
“We know going to the FAAN walk, the snacks they give us will be safe for Lukas to eat,” Becky said.
To sign up for the walk, visit foodallergywalk.org.