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New Castle NY Unveils Signs in Parks Raising Food Allergy Awareness

Anyone with life-threatening food allergies always need to be vigilant about coming into contact with a potential allergen, even in the outdoors at a park or playground. In New Castle, New York the community has taken the steps to promote greater awareness of food allergies, along with some simple steps to help keep people in their parks and playgrounds safe.

New Castle NY Unveils Signs in Parks Raising Food Allergy Awareness

(Left to R.) Councilwoman Victoria Tipp, Chappaqua resident Stacey Saiontz, her son, Jared, Supervisor Lisa Katz and parent Heather Brown. by Martin Wilbur

By Martin Wilbur
May 12th, 2022

The Town of New Castle commemorated Food Allergy Awareness Week unveiling one of 10 signs in its parks and playgrounds reminding the public how they can protect those with food allergies. Pictured, from left, are Councilwoman Victoria Tipp, Chappaqua resident Stacey Saiontz, her son, Jared, Supervisor Lisa Katz and parent Heather Brown. Martin Wilbur photo

For those people who suffer from food allergies, they must stay constantly vigilant to not only avoid certain foods but even come close to others. For children, that can be especially difficult, since they are often in sizeable groups with their peers at school, on a school bus or on the playground.

The Town of New Castle is recognizing Food Allergy Awareness Week by having unveiled one of 10 signs last Tuesday at its parks and playgrounds to remind the public that they can take two simple but crucial steps to ensure the safety of everyone who visits.

“Do you know 1 in 13 children has a food allergy?” read the sign that was uncovered at the interactive playground behind Town Hall. "You can keep our children safer with these simple steps:

  1. Eat in picnic areas
  2. Clean your hands with a water-based wipe after eating"

For eighth-grader Jared Saiontz, who has suffered from multiple food allergies all his life, he was pleased his hometown installed the cautionary reminders for children and parents that members of the community do have potentially problematic or even lethal food allergies.

“It makes me feel happy because they can’t always feel safe and they don’t have to worry when they go to the playgrounds,” Saiontz said of youngsters like himself with severe allergies. “(Now) they can just have fun with their friends.”

He has advocated for local food pantries to be sensitive to those with food allergies as well as having supported a law that now allows school bus drivers in the state to administer epinephrine, which passed the legislature in 2017. On Monday, Saiontz was in Albany to receive a proclamation from Assemblyman Chris Burdick honoring him and others who advocate on behalf of those with food allergies.

Supervisor Lisa Katz and several other officials and community members gathered around the sign at the playground before last week’s Town Board work session. Helping to keep residents safe is also making sure to address a potential problem that could be life-threatening, brought on by children innocently playing at a park without washing their hands after eating.

“This is something that’s very important, especially on playgrounds when you don’t know if a child just ate peanuts, for instance, and hasn’t washed (their) hands or is eating it on a swing and then another child who does have an issue is coming and can really have a significant issue,” Katz said.

About 90 percent of all food allergies are caused by nine foods, according to foodallergy.org a site that helps those with food allergies to lead safe lives. Those foods are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy and sesame.

About 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies, including roughly six million children, the website stated.

Saiontz’s mother, Stacey, said that her son’s friends have been very cooperative in making sure not to eat around Jared and to wash their hands or use wipes when they’re around him.

She said that the signs are important because unless you or someone you know have food allergies it could be the furthest thing from your mind when coming to a playground.

“This makes it even easier because sometimes there are people who you don’t know,” Stacey Saiontz said. “People don’t want to hurt anyone else.”

Photo: Jared Saiontz at NYS Capitol Albany, NY

But wait! Here’s more news! Regarding lobbying for individuals and families with life-threatening food allergies, on May 9th Jared Saiontz and his mother Stacey were invited to New York State Capitol in Albany. Along with Assembly Member Chris Burdick of Westchester Co. (D - NY assembly district 93), they announced Resolution 845 proclaiming Food Allergy Awareness Day in New York State. Jared and Stacey successfully advocated for adoption of this important resolution. Food Allergy Awareness v-Day NY 2022 on Monday, May 4th was hosted by our association and featured a series of meetings with assembly members and state senators held via the world wide web. Volunteer activists included adults and their kids, allergists and news media. Here is an excerpt from the resolution text.

WHEREAS, This Legislative Body, representing the people of the State of New York, supports the increase in public awareness regarding food allergies and anaphylaxis; it is important to help educate schools, restaurants and all citizens of the State of New York of the serious and potentially life-threatening nature of food allergies; now, therefore,
be it…
RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to memorialize Governor Kathy Hochul to proclaim May 9-14, 2022, as Food Allergy Awareness Week in the State of New York….

Martin Wilbur
Martin has more than 30 years of experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007.

Additional reporting provided by Jon Terry, co-founder of the Allergy Advocacy Association. 

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