A Pleasant Grove mother is taking matters into her own hands, creating an allergy-safe subscription box for kids who have been diagnosed with severe food allergies.
Tiffany Rogers is a wife and mother who loved to cook for her children and had been experimenting in the kitchen for about 20 years. When one of her sons was diagnosed with severe food allergies, she felt like her world was turned upside down.
Over time, she found ways to replace her favorite foods with allergy-friendly alternatives. She started a website for people in similar situations to follow along on her journey because she said she was having a hard time finding information.
As time went on, Rogers became more and more involved in food allergy support groups and organizations in Utah County before serving on the board for the Utah Food Allergy Network.
While working with these groups, Rogers planned events around holidays for children with severe food allergies, including no-food Easter egg hunts and Trunk-or-Treats, as well as gingerbread house events using ingredients that are food allergy friendly.
During this time, Rogers realized the importance of involving children with severe food allergies in the cooking process.
“These kids, they need to learn some important skills, and one of those is cooking,” she said. “They need to be able to cook their own food so that they’re not completely relying on others as they get older.”
To meet this growing need, Rogers founded Chef Free Club, a company based out of Pleasant Grove that offers monthly subscription boxes for children in similar situations.
Each box comes with the tools parents and kids need to successfully make food to meet any of their needs, including a kitchen tool, recipe, lesson plan and ingredient suggestions or samples. One of the boxes, for example, comes with a kitchen knife and that week’s lesson plan covers safety.
The boxes do not come with the food itself, however, because Rogers wanted to keep the price of the box low, encourage shopping locally and allow parents the freedom to customize each recipe to their child’s needs.
“Even with food allergies, you’re going to have very unique combinations,” she said.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education, there are eight major food allergens that are responsible for most of the serious food-allergy reactions, including milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts.
Over 32 million Americans, including one in every 13 children, have been diagnosed with a food allergy, and the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011, according to Food Allergy Research and Education.
The box, although designed for children with severe food allergies, is also helpful for families with plant-based diets, which is extremely popular in other cultures and has become more prevalent in the U.S., she said.
Tiffany said she believes that’s a shortcoming she can help correct.
The subscription provides parents and kids with an experience to learn not just how to cook but life skills, as well. The purpose of the box is to teach kids essential skills, get children more involved in the community, help children establish healthy relationships with food, and motivate kids to spread awareness about food allergies and special diets.
“My other goal with building this community for these kids, is bringing together all kinds of special diets and helping the kids develop more of an awareness for each other while finding a way to spread their voice in positive ways that are going to influence positive change,” she said.
Preorders are available until the official launch on Feb. 21. After that, orders will take about three weeks to ship, and once the boxes are on the way, customers receive an email notifying them.
Currently, the Chef Free Club subscription boxes can be shipped within the U.S. and Canada, and the company already has a growing clientele between these two countries. The cost of shipping is included in the price of the box.
In the future, Rogers said her business has the potential to have international influence as more and more parents see the benefit.
Rogers said she is hoping to have a pick-up option for Utah County residents in the near future, helping parents save some money. During the one-a-month pick-ups, she said, she hopes to also include an activity for parents and their kids to do together. Later on, Rogers hopes to host more local events to help develop her local customer base, as well.
For now, the Chef Free Club is ready to go with Facebook Live events and contests.