In case the name didn’t give it away, my son Charlie is the inspiration behind Charlie’s Safe Treat Box. He has lived with multiple life-threatening food allergies since he was a baby and it’s been a tough road for our family.
Having food allergies means you live with an invisible disability. While you look healthy on the outside, exposure to one of your allergens could be fatal. Keeping safe while on the go is hard because allergy-friendly snacks aren’t always readily available.
My experience with Charlie has inspired me to create a safer world for people with food allergies. I want to make it easier for families living with this invisible disability to source safe snacks when they are out and about.
Charlie has played a key role in the vision and development of Charlie’s Safe Treat Box so I thought it would be good for you to get to know him a little better. I hope you enjoy his insights.
Sharon (S): What does it feel like to live with food allergies?
Charlie (C): A bit rough. It can be hard and stressful. You feel a bit nervous and scared. It’s stressful because if you go to parties you might not be able to eat any food as it might contain dairy, egg or nuts or whatever you’re allergic to. My mum always packs safe treats for me to eat at parties. Sometimes I just want to be able to join in with everyone else though.
S: Which food allergen would you like to disappear or outgrow first – dairy, egg, peanuts or tree nuts?
C: I want to outgrow milk because then I can eat cake at birthday parties and lots more foods containing milk like ice-cream and chocolate. I’ve had the most allergic reactions to dairy because it’s everywhere and dairy is hidden in lots of foods like potato chips. It’s really hard to avoid and so if we can’t read any ingredients label for some food then I don’t eat it.
S: What advice would you give to other children living with food allergies?
C: Try to stay calm and make some good friends who understand your allergies. Even try to make friends with other kids with allergies as you can look after each other. Always carry your medicine bag everywhere you go or remind your mum or dad to carry it for you. Remember to ask your mum or dad, “Have you got my medicine bag?” before you leave somewhere. My dad always forgets my bag and we have to go back and get it.
S: What is the best way to make someone living with food allergies feel safe?
C: Spend time with the person to understand their allergies and learn what an allergic reaction looks like as there are lots of different symptoms. You could also find out which foods might contain their allergies and which foods are safe for them to eat. You need to check ingredients every time you eat something too.
S: What is your favourite food to eat?
C: My favourite food to eat is my mum’s spaghetti bolognese. She makes it for me all the time. Sometimes I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s really yummy! I also love to make rice paper rolls at home and choose my own ingredients for the fillings. I like to fill my rice paper roll with shredded carrots, slices of cucumber, chicken, mint leaves and rice noodles. It’s lots of fun when you have to roll it up and then eat it. Sometimes I make them for my school lunch box too.
S: What is your job at Charlie’s Safe Treat Box?
C: My job is to make sure no one gets sick when they eat something from Charlie’s Safe Treat Box. I want to train our vending machines to understand what you’re allergic to and then the machine can show you what is safe to eat. I’d love that! I don’t know if mummy can find a vending machine like that. I also have to taste all the treats to make sure that everyone will find them yummy.
S: What do you hope to achieve at Charlie’s Safe Treat Box?
C: To make sure people living with food allergies are safe when they eat something. I don’t want anyone to get sick because of something they ate. I want people to know there are plenty of safe and yummy treats to eat at Charlie’s Safe Treat Box. We’ve picked them for people living with food allergies, but anyone without food allergy can eat them too because they taste good.
S: Would you like to work at ‘Charlie’s Safe Treat Box’ when you’ve finished school?
C: I hope a cure for food allergies has been found before then! I don’t want to worry about food allergies anymore. Then we can turn Charlie’s Safe Treat Box into a business that just sells yummy treats that are good for you.
S: Many people know you as the boy with lots of food allergies. What else do you want people to know about you?
C: I barrack for Essendon Football Club and I love watching AFL. I’m always kicking the football at school with my friends and on the weekend with my brother, Arnold and my dad. I love to go skiing at Mount Hotham with my family. My mum always makes sure I’ve got some safe treats in my pockets in case I get hungry. I’ve got lots of LEGO and love to build things with LEGO. My brother Arnold always ends up breaking them! I love trying lots of different foods even though I have food allergies. My mum tells me I’ve got good taste buds and I’ve never been a picky eater. If I didn’t have food allergies, I’d eat everything.
S: If you’re not working at Charlie’s Safe Treat Box when you’re older, what do you want to do?
C: I’d like to be an AFL player when I grow up and play for Essendon. I’m not sure if they’d let me be a football player if I still have food allergies. I don’t know any football players with food allergies.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Charlie a bit more. We look forward to bringing you allergy-safe treats that are easy to access when you’re on the go.
Do you have a question for Charlie? Ask it in the comments and he’ll be happy to answer (with a bit of mum’s help).