Soon to be 5-year-old Noble Williams of Rock Hill is allergic to milk products, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.
His allergies affect his 10-year-old brother, Norris, and his parents, Norris and Serena.
To ensure Noble feels included, the Williamses eat the same food as the youngest family member. It is a rare occasion for Serena to make “mom’s mac and cheese,” a favorite of 10-year-old Norris.
“We have gotten rid of all the allergens, our home has become a safe zone,” Serena said.
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“We want what’s best for Noble, but we are eating a healthier option,” said the senior Norris.
But it’s not merely the Williamses who are affected. The students at Old Pointe Elementary School – where Norris is a fifth-grader in Jennifer Miller’s class – are affected, as are the students at Dutchman Creek Middle School where the senior Norris is principal.
Also affected are those who work at the Rock Hill school district administrative offices where Serena is the coordinator of community services.
At the restaurants where the Williamses eat, every server and chef gets a “food allergy alert card,” informing them of Noble’s allergies and the warning to make sure Noble’s food “does not contain any of the ingredients (on the card) and that any utensils and equipment used to prepare (his) meal, as well as prep surfaces, are fully cleaned immediately before using.”
And now, thanks to Gov. Nikki Haley, the call for food allergy awareness is statewide. Haley, at the request of Noble and his family, issued a proclamation this week in support of Food Allergy Awareness Week.
The proclamation notes there is “no cure for food allergy” and the only way to prevent a reaction is “strict avoidance of offending foods.”
The proclamation also states “educating restaurants, schools, and the general public about the serious and potentially life-threatening nature of food allergies can reduce the chance of severe reaction and loss of life.”
The number of affected people is so large because even the smell of allergy agents, such as peanuts, or even second-hand contact, such as kissing or shaking hands with someone else who has eaten a peanut product, can produce an allergic reaction.
The proclamation is a sign that the state government thinks food allergies are important and hopefully an introduction to “some difficult conversation in Rock Hill,” Serena Williams said.
The conversation started Thursday at Old Pointe Elementary at the suggestion of Norris. He wanted his classmates to know why it is so important to learn about the dangers of food allergies.
Mom, dad, and Noble joined Norris for Thursday’s presentation.
Serena Williams stressed the importance of washing hands instead of using a hand sanitizer. Washing is the only way to remove the proteins that can spread foot allergies, she said.
She also told the students that while they are taught the importance of sharing, it’s not OK to share food, especially with some who has food allergies.
Like any good show-and-tell event at school, the Williamses came with handouts – a food allergy fact sheet, but more importantly cupcakes and fruit kabobs for all of Norris’ classmates.
The cupcakes contained no dairy product, no eggs, no peanuts or tree nuts. Serena made the cupcakes from a special Duncan Hines white cake mix that is milk free. The flavoring was strawberry jello and the egg was replaced with a Ener-G, a powder that is gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy free and soy free.
Those who tried the cupcakes Thursday reported they were very sweet.
Noble and Norris also handed out fruit kabobs. Serena Williams said they handed out individual kabobs rather than place the fruit bowls to reduce the chance of the fruit being contaminated by an allergen.
When asked if he wanted to stay anything Thursday, the young Noble said “no.” Serena Williams added that while he can be a child of few words, he had told her earlier they needed to do something “because people with food allergies need help.”
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066