Throughout the year many schools, churches, families and other groups host events that involve the serving of food and beverages. For children with food allergies these events can be bittersweet because although they can participate they do have to be careful about what foods are being served. Georgia State alumna Leneille Moon, ’08, author of the children’s book Patty’s Secret, knows first-hand about these challenges. The mother of a toddler who has severe multiple food allergies, she wrote this book in hopes of raising awareness about the food allergies and the challenges they pose. She spoke with Georgia State’s Dave Cohen.
DC: Obviously the subject if food allergies is something that is of concern to you. What prompted you to write a children’s book about the subject?
LM: Well, I had a very normal pregnancy, my first pregnancy, and delivered a beautiful baby boy in 2010. In the early part of 2011, when he was five months old, I was just beginning the steps of letting him taste different foods. One time, after I let him taste some mashed potatoes, I took a short drive to pick up my husband from work and when I got him out of the car he actually had an allergic reaction. I did not know that’s what it was. I thought it was a bee sting or a wasp sting because he was very swollen. His tongue had actually swollen up. We took him to the hospital and they said that if we had gotten there fifteen minutes later that he would have lost oxygen to his brain and died. At that point we learned that he had food allergies and that we would need to learn all about them and manage them. As my son got older I wanted to show him different things about food allergies just so he will know that he has food allergies and I couldn’t find any food allergy children’s books in the local library or any book stores. They had books on autism and every other special need but as far as food intolerance or allergies there were none. So, I decided to write one. I wanted to write the book to help children, even if they did not have a food allergy, learn about food allergies so that they can help keep each other safe.
DC: The topic of food allergies has come into the forefront in recent years with news about peanut allergies and gluten but it’s not a subject that has the kind of awareness that it needs?
LM: Right, food allergies have been around for a very long time and actually in the south and certain parts of the country they only think its peanuts. The gluten-free thing has just taken off because it’s more of like a celebrity-type of thing, “Oh, I’m gluten-free,” but it’s not like I can’t eat gluten. It’s when I eat it, it makes me sick. With food allergies, when I eat the item in particular I can die. It is somewhat of a taboo topic because people don’t want to think about children and death in that sense and they don’t want to scare children.
DC: You graduated from Georgia State in 2008. How did your experience here help to get you to where you are today, writing books?
LM: I selected Georgia State after look for a school that was really good in Journalism. At that point in my life I wanted to be a television news anchor so I selected Georgia State and I made the best choice ever. It’s a really good school and it has a really great location. You’re in the heart of the scene of Atlanta and I was able to meet some really great people along the way. During my time at Georgia State I went to school every summer because I wanted to make sure I graduated in four years. I majored in journalism and my concentration was in public relations and I selected my minor in hospitality administration because I wanted to get the certificate for meeting and event planning. Event planning was my second passion after writing. Post GSU, a lot of my alumni friends and I still keep in contact with each other. I like to see that many people are entrepreneurs, they’re movers and shakers in the Atlanta area and I’m really glad I went to school there because I was able to meet so many great people.
DC: Were there any classes or professors that you remember that really made an impact on you while you were here?
LM: I had a few professors that were really nice and kind, especially in the journalism department but, actually Debbie Robbe in the hospitality department; she was the best person ever. I mean, these people in the hospitality department really love what they do. They love events, trade shows. We learned everything about hospitality administration industry. They have people come in from country clubs, hotels, restaurants, the managers and directors; they come in and speak with you. They have a special job hotline that helps you get work. That’s what I really loved about that program.
DC: Now that your first book has been published, do you see publishing any more books in your future?
LM: Yes, I want to write two more books this year if I can. My second book is going to be a healthy family cookbook because after finding out my son had food allergies we actually started reading labels a lot. So now I am like a label detective and when I read them, if there’s anything I can’t understand on it I (we) don’t eat it. We stopped eating many processed foods because we were tired of calling the companies trying to find out if it was made on the same line as a peanut or egg product. We started making all our meals with only whole foods meaning a plant based diet. I would then like to write a book about when a child travels on an airplane because a lot of airlines serve peanuts or peanut products and that is a problem because the air circulates so it’s like circulating the allergen in the air a thousand times and that’s really bad. Hopefully, one day, the airlines will stop serving peanut products.
Patty’s Secret is a self-published book available online at Amazon.com
You can also learn more about this book by visiting online at: Lmoonbooks.wix.com/pattyssecret