It wasn’t hard for Caroline Moassessi to find the motivation to get involved. Data and information was lacking and there was only one national organization that increased public awareness for food allergies nearly 15 years ago. When her son was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies at age 2, there was no support in school or the community to protect her son. Her maternal instinct is what drove her to become an advocate and nationally known expert on food allergies.
My maternal instinct to protect my son is what drove me to become a food allergy advocate.
Her advocacy work became official in 2003 when she co-founded Northern Nevada Asthma and Food Allergy Education Group – AAPE. The Orvis School of Nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno assisted her to open a 501 c 3 and granted the seed funds to get started. The group brought physicians and allergists from Nevada and California to lecture and provide educational training for those affected by life threatening food allergies.
When her son was first diagnosed, he was the only kid in his entire school. Now it’s 1 out of 13 children and a total of 15 million Americans. The prevalence of food allergies has increased by 50% from 1997-2011 according to the Center for Disease and Control. She described a hypothesis out there that we are too clean. Our bodies are used to parasites but those don’t exist anymore. Some suggest it’s genetic and gut research tends to attribute food allergies to changes in our gut. Others believe it’s our food system. Regardless of the cause, food allergies are agreeably tricky to diagnose.
When my son was first diagnosed, he was the only kid in school. Now it’s 1 out of 13 children and a total of 15 million Americans live with life threatening food allergies.
With mixed results, data and information, Caroline took it in her own hands to educate herself and the public. She engaged with advocacy and awareness as a solution to protect her son. AAPE, the nonprofit she co-founded, went from group meetings to hosting social events and eventually expanded into health fairs. In the last few years, AAPE started training school nurses all around the state about how to treat students that face life threatening food allergies. In 2015, AAPE partnered with Washoe County School District to offer school nurses CEUs to attend their training.
During recent legislative sessions, she worked with others to start a new group known as the Nevada Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance. This group was made of citizens and lobbyists that donated their time for the cause. The late Senator Debbie Smith directly partnered with this group and acted on their behalf speaking to legislators all across the country to protect people with food allergies. In 2013, Debbie sponsored and helped to pass Caroline’s bill that mandated epinephrine in Nevada public schools. In 2015, a bill passed that allowed business access to epinephrine.
The late Senator Debbie Smith sponsored our bill that mandated epinephrine in Nevada public schools.
This incredible advocacy is not only recognized across the state of Nevada, but it has been building global recognition via Caroline’s blog and online presence, Grateful Foodie. She uses her blog as a platform to be a resource for food allergies and asthma. The intention has never been to be an expert because the disease is always changing. Through her blog, Caroline includes recipes, lists of ingredients she finds safe for her household and countless resources for families that live with life threatening food allergies.
My intention has never been to be an expert because the disease is always changing.
In a short time, advertisers started asking if they could promote their products on her blog. Companies even offered her sponsorships. Caroline limits advertisers to one (and maybe two products) that she truly believes will help people and otherwise offers services as a consultant to companies developing products in her industry. She provides feedback in regard to product messaging and offers opinion on ingredients or new products that would better serve her community.
Caroline’s blog on life threatening food allergies, anaphylaxis and asthma has created a vessel to make change through education and awareness. From the personal side, it’s given Caroline a career as a consultant. She can help the masses via her online blog and now more regularly has the opportunity to sit one-on-one with individuals and companies to assist them with product development and brand messaging. Eventually, she would love to expand her blogging, outreach and education into the hospitality industry where her career originally took off.
Blogging has created a vessel to make change through education and awareness.
For years Caroline worked in the hospitality industry after studying business in San Francisco. Then she worked in a hospitality software company that sent her all over the world to install new software in ancient systems. She had the opportunity to travel to Beijing, Bangkok, Dublin, Cancun, Cyprus, etc. all before getting married at the age of 27. With her background in hospitality and over a decade of work as a food allergy advocate, Caroline sees herself completing the Serve Safe Certification and working with restaurants to teach food safety that is allergy friendly.
When I asked her the number tip to maintain excellence, she said that she stays honest to her passion and commitment to the mission. She explained that you must have integrity as a blogger. When someone gives you a product to test, state that. When you choose to try something and buy it yourself, tell people. If it’s biased, be honest because that’s blogging. Finally, I asked the advice she’d give her younger self and she said pay attention: there are so many great opportunities and great things, so get involved!
Stay honest to the passion and commitment to the mission.