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Food Allergy Advocates

A Force of Good for Food Allergy

Lisa Rutter, Founder,
No Nuts Moms Group

When Lisa Rutter discovered her 3-year-old had life-threatening food allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, she felt overwhelmed and fearful. Play dates became a minefield of potential cross-contamination, and she gave up going. But Rutter wasn’t one to become a recluse with her child. Instead, she reached out online, determined to find other allergy moms.

What began as a single online post and one play date blossomed into the No Nuts Moms Group, a network of more than 5,000 allergy moms. Today, the group has an astonishing 50 chapters across the U.S. – a truly national presence. They meet in person for play dates and allergy-friendly events, and daily online for support, advice and good banter.

Rutter is their guiding light, one who’s always there for counsel or to plan a great allergy-friendly event (she recently stuffed 3,000 eggs with non-food toys for 70 kids from the Michigan chapter to hunt on Easter weekend).

In the first of a series called The Allergy Advocates, Allergic Living salutes Lisa Rutter for her outstanding achievements in support of families living with food allergies. While the former law clerk never imagined herself a role model for thousands of women, Rutter has embraced her new calling, even saying becoming a food allergy mom has been a “great experience” for her.

Rutter is more inclined to talk about the need for greater food allergy awareness than to toot her own horn, but members of her group have called her a “force of good” and the “epitome of strength and love”.

Senior Allergic Living contributor Claire Gagné speaks to Lisa Rutter about the evolution of the No Nuts Moms Group and how she became an unexpected national advocate.

Can you tell us the story of how No Nuts Moms Group was born?

My son was 3 years old when he was first diagnosed with peanut and tree nut allergies. I was just shocked because I didn’t know anything about food allergies. The allergist showed us the auto-injector and told us he could die from this.

I felt really alone at the time. We had just moved to Michigan from Illinois and I didn’t know anyone here. I wanted to meet other people so I was going to play dates through a newcomers’ association – and there was food everywhere. I didn’t know these mothers, and I was trying to get these people to like me and want to be friends with me. It was just really uncomfortable, so I stopped going to the play dates.

I wondered if there were any food allergy groups out there where moms and kids could meet up. I didn’t see anything, so I posted an ad on Meetup.com.

It was a few months before I finally got another member. I was so excited; I was jumping for joy. We met up at the zoo. We started to get more members, but it was still slow. I moved the group to Facebook, and that’s when it really started to take off.

After a while people started saying they would love to have a group near them, and I thought, “why not?” People just kept popping up and I kept saying, “I’ll help you set that one up.”

How do the groups work?

Online, we have a Community Facebook Page, which is for sharing news and popular blog posts. We also have a Closed Group and Forum, also on Facebook, which anyone around the world can join. That’s just there to vent, if you need to, and for support. (This group has more than 3,000 members.)

Then we have the local chapters. They have closed Facebook groups as well. These are the groups where you can connect with local people in your area to recommend doctors, grocery stores, food and restaurants. That’s also where you plan to meet up for activities, such as Easter egg hunts and Halloween activities.

Next: Newly diagnosed, school issues, lobbying

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.