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New Castle Unveils Signs in Parks Raising Food Allergy Awareness

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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 was passed by 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.”

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