Huntington’s Victoria Segal refers to herself as the “Erin Brockovich of food allergies.”
Nothing could bring out that passion more than having a child who could die from consuming just one wrong goodie.
Segal’s 9-year-old daughter Julia was diagnosed with an egg allergy at 10 months old. Then, at the age of 2, Julia put a pistachio in her mouth, and her eyes began to swell.
“She had outgrown the egg allergy, and the doctor diagnosed her with a tree-nut allergy,” Segal said. “When you have a child with food allergies, you want to keep them safe, and education is an important part of doing so.”
Concerned about Julia, a student at Jefferson Elementary School, Segal contacted the Virginia-based Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). She met the organization’s chief executive, Julia Bradsher, at a FAAN Walk in Eisenhower Park last year, and they quickly hit it off.
They now work together through FAAN’s Safe at School Program, which helps schools be food-allergy smart.
“I want people to know and understand that a food allergy can be life-threatening,” said Segal, noting that Julia is especially at risk because she also suffers from asthma.
A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Symptoms for food allergies can be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness). Scientists estimate that approximately 12 million Americans suffer from the condition, making Jefferson Elementary principal Margaret Evers especially appreciative of Segal’s work.
"We are grateful to have the additional resources," Evers said.
The effort extends to Huntington High School March 1 and 2, when food allergy presentations will be given in English and Spanish.
“Food allergies cross all races and language barriers,” Segal said.
Segal wants to extend the program to all of Long Island, and is also writing a book titled “The Food Allergy Mom's Silver Bullet,” a how-to guide for keeping your child safe at school.
“When you believe strongly enough in something,” Segal says, “don’t give up.”
Pictured: Victoria Segal hangs out with daughters Julia, left, and Sophia, 5.