Jared Saiontz is only 14 years-old and entering his first year of high school yet he has done so much as an advocate for Food Allergy Awareness. He has suffered from severe food allergies his whole life.
His allergies include dairy, egg, oat, rye, cats, dogs, sesame, and many more. Instead of accepting the difficulties that come with living with allergies, he decided to take action to help improve the lives of all those living with food allergies.
His most recent accomplishment was advocating for the passage of a Westchester County Food Allergy Restaurant Safety law that will allow restaurants to properly serve people with allergies. Every restaurant in Westchester County will now have on-site personnel who are trained in food allergy safety. Additionally, signs will be posted identifying the top nine major allergens (note Jared was part of the successful advocacy effort at the federal level to add sesame as the 9th allergen companies must label for) along with symptoms of an allergic reaction and steps to take to treat it. This new law will not only help so many people suffering from allergies, but it is only one of the great things Jared has accomplished.
Jared has always been passionate about helping other children with food allergies. Most recently he successfully advocated for placement of allergy awareness signs at the Town of New Castle playgrounds. When he was younger his parents couldn’t risk letting him ride the school bus because at that time school bus drivers were not allowed to administer epinephrine. This potentially meant that if Jared or any other child at the time accidentally consumed something they should not, the bus driver was not allowed to administer epinephrine even if it meant saving the child’s life. Jared asked his mom if they could meet with their State Senator Terrance Murphy and Assembly Member David Buchwald to change this.
Jared explained that every May since the age of 4, he, his mother and older brother Elliott would drive hours to attend meetings in Albany so he could be an advocate for not only himself but all the other children that had allergies. Thanks to Jared and other allergy advocates, a law was passed in 2017 to change this rule and now all school bus drivers in New York State can legally administer epinephrine in the event of an emergency. Jared, alongside other advocates testified for and helped pass the following New York State laws: a law that allow schools to stock non patient specific epinephrine; a law that allows students to self carry their life saving epinephrine; a law that requires all preschools to have allergy awareness training; and a law that allows park rangers to carry and administer epinephrine.
Helping Keep Food Pantries Stocked with Safe Food Options
Jared has always been passionate about helping other children and adults with easy accessibility to allergy safe food options. In the midst of the 2020 pandemic, the food shortage made it harder for Jared and his family to find allergy safe food options that worked for him. One day at the dinner table Jared asked, “How are people who cannot afford allergy safe food handling this? Do food pantries provide allergy safe food?”
He and his mom Stacey Saiontz reached out to the Mt. Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry and asked them how they handle clientele with food allergies. The Food Pantry did not yet have food allergy protocols. Roberta Horowitz at the Food Pantry asked Jared if he wanted to partner with her to help create food allergy protocols for the Pantry and he did! He created innovative posters in Spanish and English to be displayed at the food pantry. These signs not only had writing but symbols to indicate to clientele to advise an employee about their food allergies.
But this is not the only way Jared helped the food pantry. The food pantry surveyed its clientele and asked what allergies they had. Using this information, Jared’s former middle school and other local schools conducted an allergy friendly food drive so guests at the food pantries could have options that worked for them. Now every year during Food Allergy Awareness month (May) those schools annually conduct food drives for the pantry. This year with the help from the PTA and the Seven Bridges Share Jr. Club, the Chappaqua schools collected and donated 734 pounds of allergy friendly food.
Next on the Horizon
Although he’s achieved so much already, he is still not done! Jared hopes to help pass a bill that will require all New York State teachers to be trained to recognize if a child is experiencing anaphylaxis and understand how to administer an epinephrine auto injector. Jared noted that “1 in every 13 children suffer from food allergies. This bill would allow teachers who spend most of their time with children to recognize if a child is having an allergic reaction and save their life. A lot of kids try foods for the first time at school and could experience their first reaction at school.” Jared has testified for this bill annually for 10 years now and he will not give up until it is passed into law.
When asked if there was anything he would like the readers to know Jared said, “Even though I have all these allergies I am still able to do all the same things as everyone else… I just can’t eat the same foods.” After an interview with Jared, it’s clear that he can not only do what anyone else can but beyond that. At such a young age he has helped countless people with food allergies and raised so much awareness. Let it be known that Jared has a very bright future ahead!