How and why did I start HomeFree

by Jill Robbins

Many of us know this experience all too well: A group of children is happily eating some yummy treats, while our own child watches, not able to join in. Our child is upset, and so are we.

Like many parents, my husband and I had been told by our son’s allergist never to give our child anything made in a facility containing nuts or peanuts because of the risk of cross-contamination. With respected research showing 6.5% clinically significant peanut cross-contamination in shared facilities, we listened. That meant our son couldn’t eat any treats unless we made them. So I tried to learn how to bake, something I had almost never done before. And I certainly didn’t know how to bake without eggs or dairy. It took three years of efforts, but then I “got it!” I had persisted because I so much wanted to help my son by providing treats he could eat while everyone else was snacking. Giving him snacks definitely helped, as did talking, developing coping skills, and planning. But nothing helped enough. As a mom and a psychologist, I wanted a better solution for my son, and for the 12 million other Americans with food allergies. It seemed that if there could be treats that everyone would love, and that our kids could eat too, everyone could enjoy the same treats together. Then our children would no longer have to struggle repeatedly to cope, eating their own “special” snack while everyone else got to eat the “real” snack. Instead, everyone could be happy. Everyone could be part of the group.

jillrobbins

It has been a long journey. Once my baking had become successful, I spent the next three years working on my allergen free baking cookbook (available at www.homefreetreats.com). The goal was for families to be able to bake treats so delicious that at any event – birthdays, holidays, class parties, everyone including our children would be delighted to eat the same treats together. It was a great moment the first time children at his birthday party asked for third servings of the cake I had baked!

Then families for whom I had started to bake encouraged me to produce the products. “Not everyone has time to bake,” they explained, “and it would be a convenience for us and fun for our kids to be able to buy a packaged product.” Of course my son agreed, pointing out that all the cookies even at the best of health food stores were made in facilities with nuts or peanuts, or were gluten free, or had shared lines with eggs or dairy.

So I set on my way. I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed, but got help from a lot of people. There were two things I did know from the start, as a mom: First, that I would produce treats that are wholesome – organic, whole grain, and with no trans fat or cholesterol; and second, and of course most important, I knew how to be incredibly careful for our children with food allergies. I spent the first 6 months just sourcing ingredients with regard to cross-contamination. Regardless of price, I chose the safest ingredients. Additionally, we have always also allergen-tested every ingredient batch for peanut, almond, egg, and milk proteins. Most companies do what is called co-packing, where they have an idea and have someone else produce it, along with lots of other products. Although it is much easier and MUCH less expensive, I was never comfortable doing that. I wanted to have full control over every aspect of allergen-related safety. So from the start we have had our own dedicated bakery free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and dairy. The bakery also contains no wheat or sesame, and the only soy is soy lecithin (okay for most people with soy allergies). Even our employees are careful. They wear special uniforms and shoes, don’t handle nut/peanut products on days they work, and don’t eat allergens at work. Of course, we all enjoy regular snacking on HomeFree allergy friendly cookies, with them in plentiful supply in the break room!

More and more people, stores, and institutions are discovering our cookies. Every time one of our customers spreads the word about our organic, delicious, allergy friendly cookies, it helps make the cookies available to more people. When you purchase our cookies in your local store, please thank the store for offering them. It will make it more likely that they will say yes to the next Mom who offers them a new safe option for our children.

We love to hear from people. You can Twitter us at www.twitter.com/HomeFreeTreats or email us at [email protected]

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