Food Allergy Awareness is not only a month for Kyle Dine. He has made it his life’s work and passion to entertain and educate people about food allergies. Kyle has created a new music genre, which he likes to call food allergy music. A native of Kingston, Ontario, he grew up with serious food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and mustard.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a Kyle Dine concert hosted by the Mississauga Anaphylaxis Group. It was the first time I had ever heard of Kyle Dine, but then again, we are relatively new to the allergy world. My allergy mom research habit kicked into full force and I immediately started cyber lurking on his website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts. Everything I read and watched about him was impressive, and I was excited for my food allergic son to meet a true role model – a talented and confident person who spoke proudly and positively about his own food allergies.
The concert was upbeat, fun and appropriately directed to the 20 or more school aged children in attendance that have food allergies. A portion of his show was dedicated to educating the audience about symptoms of allergic reactions. I was mostly impressed at how he got the children to participate and talk about sensitive topics like eating out and attending birthday parties. He reinforced that bringing your own food to parties is perfectly normal and that the most important part of parties and social gatherings is playing and spending time with friends. The highlight of the show for me was when he asked everyone to show off their allergy alert bracelets and a room full of children raised their hands up with pride. This made my heart happy.
I caught up with Kyle at the end of the show and asked him a few questions that I thought HypeFoodie’s would want to know:
What is the one message you want people to go home with after each of your shows?
- The one message is that it’s okay to have food allergies. If a kid can go home after a concert like today where it’s allergic kids, and know that they’re not the only ones and that it’s normal to have food allergies. When I was growing up I was the only one I knew with food allergies and that resulted in me taking a lot of risks, being embarrassed about my allergies and not wanting to be a burden on others. For kids to feel that that’s normal and it’s okay, it reduces the risks and it gives them a little more self confidence and comfort in their own skin having allergies.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing people with allergies?
- Obviously, staying safe is so crucial and it differs from family to family. There’s some overlying issues that affect everyone. One of the ones that I really focus on is education throughout society, and people not “getting it”. We deal with that everywhere, from restaurants to airplanes to school systems. It’s one huge issue. It’s come a long way in the 20 years since I was a kid, but there’s so much more to do in spreading awareness in how everyone can help people with food allergies in small ways and some big ways too.
How do you manage your meals while you are on tour?
- I wish I had a chef on tour, but honestly, food is just something that keeps me going in terms of nutrients. I don’t consider myself a “foodie”. I do bring food with me. I always have a big bag of random food in my trunk with granola bars that I can eat, and things that I can whip up really fast. I stick with (restaurant) chains like McDonald’s that I know I can have. If I have time to go to a restaurant, I go and ask all the questions that I would at any restaurant. When I’m in a pinch I always go for something I know.
Do you have any tips for people with allergies that are planning to travel?
- It differs from family to family. I’m an allergic adult, so what I do with travelling is different than a family. But, the universal thing is that you can’t do enough planning. The more you plan, the less you have surprises when you are travelling. For me, I look up restaurants in advance and look at the menu online.
When did you start educating and entertaining people? What made you choose this as your career?
- I started in 2007. It’s definitely not what I was thinking of in high school while I was rocking out in a Nirvana cover band. I had one really bad reaction that was my slap in the face that told me that “you need to do a better job with your allergies because that was just too scary”. I was working at a summer camp at the time, so I was around kids a lot, and other kids with allergies. We just started penning these little tunes together and it really just spiraled from there. I sent some of my songs to the support group leaders and they thought “What a cool idea. Keep going with this.” The allergy community supported me and kept egging me on to go forward. And now after 2 CDs and 350 schools I’ve been at, it’s going really well.
You can find out more about Kyle Dine at http://www.kyledine.com/