Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Food Allergy Financials

Read an interesting article in the LA Times Science section today called “Kids Food Allergies Cost U.S. Nearly $25 Billion a Year, Study Finds”.  OH.  MY.  GOSH. 

A few days ago I posted about having anxiety as a food allergy mom.  The financial aspect of raising a child with food allergies is overwhelming.  And what if you have more than one child with food allergies?

According to the LA Times article, in a study done by Dr. Ruchi Gupta (Chicago’s Northwestern University), doctor appointments, hospital stays, and ER visits account for $4.3 billion per year.  Parents lose productivity because of all these appointments and hospital trips.  That costs another $773 million annually.  To cover costs for special foods, allergy-sensitive schools, and special child care arrangements add an additional $5.5 billion each year.  Surprisingly, the area showing the biggest financial impact was in the parents’ careers.  When a child has food allergies many parents opt to stay home, do not take career advances, or have even taken pay cuts for fewer hours.  Then annual cost for employment challenges is $14 billion.

The total annual cost in the U.S. of raising a child with food allergies is $24.8 billion.  That is just for expenses surrounding food allergies.  The breakdown is $4,184 per child.  This does not include other costs of raising a child.  This is an extra $4k on top of that!!!!!!!!!!!

In our house, I feel every bit of that $4,184.  Maybe even more.  On average, I spend $75 a month on soymilk alone ($900 annually).  That doesn’t include trips to St. Louis to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  I WISH our area had one or the other.  At least that would decrease the cost of gas to drive 75 miles. It is incredibly expensive to maintain a completely allergen-free home.  Then there are prescriptions every month, 4 Epipens that will expire within the year, snacks for school, special cleaning products, special laundry detergents and shampoos, and special air filters, just to name a few…

Every allergen-friendly food purchase is about 2-3 times more expensive than the food that contains the allergen.  For example, sometimes when on sale, you can purchase peanut butter for under $2 a jar.  When your child has a peanut allergy and you opt to buy sunflower butter as an alternative, plan to pay at least $7 a jar.  And that is in Illinois.  I can’t even imagine what it would cost in California.  You can buy Kraft cheese slices for about $1.75 for a package of 20 slices when on sale.  Vegan cheese slices are about $4.50 for 10 slices.  I found a vegan mac and cheese my kiddo loves, but it is $5 for a microwavable portion that is the size of a single-serve Weight Watchers dinner.  A box of Kraft is $1.  The costs are insane.

At this point, I couldn’t imagine not having health insurance.  I would never survive.  I do not know how people that have to pay 100% out of pocket do it. 

There has to be a more cost-effective way of raising children with food allergies.  I think you can write medical expenses off when you do your taxes, right?

A few suggestions to pinch pennies: 1. Epipen coupons are available.  Check with your doctor’s office or your local drug stores. 2. Car pool when you take an out of town trip to an allergy-friendly health foods store.  3.  Make meals in advance that are able to be frozen.  Not only does this cut down on costs because the meal is prepared in bulk, but it also cuts down on time (you just have to pop it in the microwave). 4. Save leftover ingredients for a later meal.  Remember that pumpkin whoopie pie recipe I posted yesterday?  You had half of a can of pumpkin left over – PERFECT for the recipe I am going to post below.  EnjoyJ

Penne with Pumpkin Sauce

3 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp minced onion flakes

1 ½ tbsp garlic powder

1 red bell pepper (pureed)

½ can of pumpkin

1 c organic chicken broth

1/3 c water

2-3 tbsp plain soymilk (or other milk alternative)

½ tsp nutmeg

1 box of allergy-friendly penne pasta of your choice

Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Using large pan, heat coconut oil on medium heat.

2. Add onion flakes, garlic, and red pepper.  Cook until red pepper has softened.

3. Cook pasta.

4. In blender, add pumpkin, chicken broth, water, and soymilk. Blend well.

5. Add this mixture to pan and stir in remaining ingredients.

6. Use a whisk to keep the sauce smooth.

7. Once sauce is boiling and thickens, add pasta and combine gently.


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