The Allergy Awareness Club, or AIR (Allergies, Intolerances and Restrictions), is kicking off its presence at BU in efforts to host discussions and events focused around allergies, food intolerances and dietary restrictions.
AIR founder Emma Purtell, a senior in the College of Communication, said she has worked since her freshman year to establish a club that offers a safe space for allergen-friendly events and discussion and that raises awareness for those affected by allergies, food intolerances or dietary restrictions.
“We are here to offer support and raise awareness for those in the allergy community,” Purtell said, “It’s for both people with and without allergy, dietary restrictions and intolerances, so I’m really excited about starting it up.”
The club has about 30 prospective members and she said is looking to gain more of a following after its first general meeting Tuesday.
Purtell said she wishes to work alongside nutrition resources like the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center to inform the club’s prospective and joining members of the available groups on campus that can help with allergy nutrition and awareness.
“I’ve worked one on one with some really amazing nutritionists [in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences],” she said. “Also the people at the dining hall, they go as far as doing special meals for those with many dietary restrictions, so they really try their best to help students out.”
Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor of health sciences in Sargent, said BU’s nutritional resources are accommodating of students with allergies and dietary restrictions.
“What is fabulous about Boston University is that we have this staff and dieticians in the Sargent Nutrition Center that work closely with the dining halls to make sure that people who have food allergies are given proper alternatives,” Salge Blake said.
Every student can meet with a registered dietician in the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center for free, something Salge Blake recommended for students with food allergies or intolerances.
Food allergies and intolerances are common, Salge Blake said, but allergy-free students may not understand those affected by such an obstacle.
“If you don’t have food allergies, I’m not sure if you understand how challenging that can be,” she said. “People who don’t have food allergies probably never thought about it.”
Several BU students said they support the existence of a club for students with food allergies and intolerances.
Isaac Word, a freshman in the College of Communication, said he feels allergies are a “real problem.”
“A lot of allergies are just deadly, and I think it’s good to have a club to support awareness,” Word said.
Joy Liu, a junior in the College of Communication, said she thinks all large universities like BU should have groups for students with food allergies. Liu, who transferred to BU from Purdue University, has food allergies herself and said Purdue did not have a similar club.
“I think a lot of students who have allergies will be neglected if they don’t have a chance to stand out,” Liu said. “So I think it’s pretty important for a comprehensive university to have such a club.”
Kaikang Zhu, a first-year graduate student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said he thinks other universities lack a space for the acknowledgment of allergies and dietary restrictions.
“Some people may overlook the effect of an allergy, and if we have such a club, it will raise our awareness and attention of allergens,” Zhu said. “I seldom see this kind of club in other universities and schools, so I think it’s a good innovation.”
Susannah Sudborough contributed reporting.