Diane McPherson is a mother of two children living in Los Alamos, New Mexico, with her husband Tim. Her 5-year-old son Aidan is affected by a severe allergy to nuts so she has always had to shop with extra care. She has recently started a food-buying cooperative for Los Alamos families affected by allergies. This is a short interview with her about her venture.
Why did you start an allergy coop?
I came across this web site: www.peanutfreeplanet.com – and they have so much to offer, I’d like to let every food allergy parent know about it. As for wanting to start a coop, the web site company offers free shipping on orders of $100 or more. Now that can be a lot for one person to order at a time but if we have a group of people and pool our orders together, we can all take advantage of that offer. They do ship chocolates in an ice chest for a small fee & I would just ask for that fee to be divided up between all the people placing the order.
Does such a thing exist elsewhere?
Not that I’m aware of in this area. The owners of Peanut Free Planet told me that they have several customers in various areas who organize a coop for the families.
How does it work?
People search the site and make their selections. Then give the orders to me and I will submit all the orders together. When the products arrive the following week, people come pick them up. Simple as that. I would like to offer this monthly with orders being due the first Friday of the month and pick up being the following Friday.
How many children are affected with allergies on average? and in Los Alamos?
According to Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), over the past 5 years, the number of children with peanut allergies has doubled from 6 million to 12 million. That’s not counting the children allergic to milk, eggs, fish, wheat, shell fish, soy and tree nuts. I would guess there are more than 100 kids in this area with food allergies. And that just comes from getting a head count from the schools last year when I had a table at the Trick or Treat Main Street with peanut free candies which were donated by the Vermont Nut Free Candy company and Kelly’s Candies.
What are the most common allergens?
Milk, eggs, soy, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, shell fish, and fish.
How does this coop differ from the Los Alamos coop?
I believe the Los Alamos Coop covers health and organic foods. This coop is specifically focused on allergy free foods.
Can’t families with allergies just buy the same products at Smith’s or in Santa Fe?
I’ve looked myself and have found only a few choices in both locations. There are many more choices through this web site than can be found at Smith’s, Whole Foods, Wild Oats or Trader Joe’s. For example, I can’t find nut free candies anywhere except on line. This site offers Vermont Nut Free Chocolates and several other companies at one location. And with holidays coming up, I find having that choice very important.
Are prices lower in the coop?
With the few items found at the stores and on the web site, I have found the prices are the same. I suppose people would save money on gas and save time since they wouldn’t have to drive to Santa Fe.