Beach: a fun vacation getaway or food allergy mom’s worse nightmare?

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Going to the beach, spending a day in the sun, waves and the sand, and digging for sea shells is typically a fun time even for those who live there.  My son, DR, loves the sand.  Living in Savannah, Ga, we are 20 minutes from the beautiful beach of Tybee Island.  On family days, we drive down to allow DR the freedom of running through the sand, splashing in the waves, and looking for buried treasure.  One on trip he even found this perfectly preserved dry seahorse.

Unfortunately, one trip to the beach ended all of our fun.  During this last trip he was digging through the sand and came across a mound of peanut shells.  My heart fell into my stomach.  We snatched him up and left immediately.  I have seen hundreds of people eating peanuts at the beach, and never thought anything of it.  But now I realized that it is a very common occurrence to just throw the empty shells on the sand.

Peanuts are a natural product, and the shells will eventually deteriorate over time.  For a while after this beach trip, I assumed that this was not considered littering since it was a natural item; however, the fact that we could not visit the beach because of this  bothered me.  So I recently reached out to the city council of Tybee Island, just suggesting that they post signs asking people to be thoughtful of those with food allergies and not just throw their food items on the ground.  The council’s response was quick and enlightening:  Peanut shells ARE actually considered a form of littering and warrants a ticket if caught.

I did some online-digging of Tybee Island policies, and nowhere did I find anything actually saying this is a form of littering.  The most detailed description of Tybee Island Beach Rules and Regulations* comes from Savannah.com*.  It does list food and fruit peelings as litter items which should make people think of peanuts as trash and litter, but like I pointed out before, even as a mother to a child with a severe peanut allergy I thought it was perfectly common and acceptable to throw empty peanut shells on the beach.

So what needs to be done to correct this false mindset?  I believe Tybee Island City Council is working towards a solution, but I think us moms of children with food allergies need to help.  Not just in this instant, any opportunity that presents itself to be an educator and advocate for the food allergy cause.  If we want to stop living in fear of food allergies, we need to take a stand and put into place policies and structures in our communities to make life safer and fun for everyone.

As I work with Tybee Island City Council toward a solution that benefits all I will post updates.

~Lacey

*Permission granted to link to Savannah.com
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