• Kortney Kwong Hing

Food Allergy Moms: Fierce & Full of Love


Allergy moms are a fierce lot, working 'magic' behind the scenes to keep their kids with food allergies safe and included. Kortney Kwong Hing, The Zestfull Co-founder, shares some of the 'magic' her mom worked on her behalf while she grew up. Learn more...

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I was born in 1989 with quite the {long} list of food allergies, and I’ve been steadily added more as I’ve gotten older. You might know me as Allergy Girl Eats. Or, more recently, as the co-founder of a new online lifestyle magazine — The Zestfull — that spreads joy across a community that knows the hard side of living with food allergies all too well.


But to my mom, dad and friends, I’m just Kortney.


When I was little, food allergies were not common {understatement! UNDERSTATEMENT!!}


Looking back, I can see that I was a pretty cranky child who didn’t like to eat. But honestly, it was for good reason — more often than not I’d throw up the meals after I ate them. I wasn’t fully tested for allergies until age 4, and didn’t carry epinephrine until age 11.


When I was growing up, there weren’t many resources for families—my family were trailblazers in so many ways:

  • Widespread access to the internet was just getting started.

  • Social media was just a glimmer—Facebook wasn’t even invented yet!

  • There were fewer diagnostic tools for diagnosing food allergy than there are today – now allergens can be analyzed at the molecular level to identify the individual protein strands that could be causing a reaction. Amazing!

  • FARE and FAACT — important organizations that drive food allergy advocacy and educational initiatives — didn’t exist. Yet.

There wasn’t much awareness about the condition when I was growing up, either. The concept of Top 9 allergens (Top 12? Top 14? depending on which country you’re from...) hadn’t hit mainstream consciousness, and the concept of allergen-friendly foods hadn’t been invented.


I was the only kid with food allergies in elementary school, and one of two in high school. Allergies were not taken seriously, and well-meaning grownups would encourage me to ‘try just a little’.


"As an allergic person, you put pressure on others — parents, relatives, partners, friends — because of all the little extra things they have to do to help you stay safe.”

My mom did a great job making me feel like I wasn’t different, making me feel included. She never made me feel like my food allergies were a burden.


In elementary school I had a few mishaps eating cookies offered to me at a party. I quickly learned to avoid eating food at parties so I wouldn’t get sick and have to leave. My mom would send along a piece of homemade cake for me. I didn’t really notice my cake was different since I got to eat when everyone else was eating.


The party was never about the cake; it was about the fun with friends.


My mom was a brave lady. She tried to have peanuts banned in elementary school in the mid-90’s and, even though she was the PTA President, the degree of push-back on the idea made an indelible impression on my family. She never won that battle, but I give her much credit for trying — people can be unkind when they fear something (a right? a privilege? a freedom?) may be taken away.


She was way ahead of her time advocating for me and the food allergy kids who followed.


It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I fully realized how much my mom did for me behind the scenes. She was the master of stealth all those years when I was growing up, running interference for me quietly when I wasn’t looking:

  • Making phone calls to other parents,

  • Meeting with teachers and school administrators,

  • Taking on the entire Parent Teachers Association to push for an unpopular peanut ban,

  • Doing advance legwork and research before any party or sleepover,

  • Baking FROM SCRATCH, and then baking and baking some more,

  • Being the go-to house whenever possible and always hosting generously, from the heart, with a smile...

...Just to keep me safe.


“Happy Mother’s Day to all the brave, loving, constant ‘Allergy Moms’, fighting the ‘good fight’ for their kids with food allergies.”

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I want to thank my mom, who was the fiercest ‘allergy mom’ on my behalf, before being an ‘allergy mom’ was even a thing.


I am grateful to her for teaching me that my allergies do not define me, for opening my mind to world travel (my parents took me to Ireland/Mexico/St Lucia before I could walk), for instilling in me, from an early age, a deep and enduring curiosity about other cultures, and for showing me how a can-do mindset can make all the difference.


To all the kids with food allergies out there, on this Mother’s Day 2021, give your mom an extra hug. Give her a heartfelt thank you for all the love she pours into keeping you safe and teaching you skills that equip you to live your best life...with or without food allergies.


(...and try to live your best life...with gratitude...for her.)



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About the Author: Kortney Kwong Hing is a product manager and content creator by day and food allergy advocate by night. She launched the Allergy Girl Eats blog, in 2015. In 2017, she co-founded the online community, Allergy Travels, with three other globally-minded food allergy advocates. In 2018, she launched the popular Itch Podcast with co-host Dr. Payel Gupta to unpack the complexities of living with allergies, asthma and immunology for listeners. She co-founded The Zestfull, in 2020 to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of living with food allergies. She believes you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!



Image Credit: Thank you Kortney for sharing the images