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UC Engineering Alumna Creates Site for Children with Food Allergies

CEAS alumna Sonya North founded SnackRoots, a website that helps parents find safe foods for children with food allergies.

Date: 5/16/2018 8:00:00 AM
By: Brandon Pytel
Phone: (513) 556-4686

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North headshot
UC alumna Sonya North's website provides lists of safe snack options for children with food allergies.

One in every 13 children has a food allergy in the United States. These children face not only life-threatening situations (every three minutes, a food allergy sends someone to the emergency room) but also social isolation: Children with food allergies can feel left out or bullied because of their allergy.

University of Cincinnati alumna Sonya North recently founded SnackRoots, an online tool to help parents find safe foods for children with food allergies.

North is the mother of three children, two of whom live with food allergies. She created the site partially because of her experiences with her own children, who each have three different types of food allergies.

“Most people want to include children with food allergies, but they don’t know how,” said North, a 2001 graduate and industrial engineering major in UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science. “I wanted a place where these allergies wouldn’t be forgotten.” 

SnackRoots started as a way for teachers, coaches and parents to create lists of safe snacks for social gatherings. Since then, it has evolved to include individual shopping lists. Parents, grandparents and relatives are now creating lists on SnackRoots and sharing them with each other, said North.

SnackRoots works like this:
You choose from a list of 10 popular allergens to avoid (e.g., nuts, milk, gluten, etc.).
SnackRoots automatically generates a list of safe snacks without these allergens.
You receive an email with a shareable link to your list.

Unlike other food allergy sites, SnackRoots allows you to identify safe foods before you go to the grocery store. When you simply have a list of allergens to avoid, taking that list to the grocery store and looking at labels can be very frustrating. SnackRoots simplifies the process by finding safe foods tailored for you. 

In addition to creating a site that generates safe food lists, North hopes that SnackRoots can spread general awareness about allergies.

“If you’re not affected by food allergies, you may not realize your child’s favorite food can have life-threatening implications,” North said. “We should be doing things that are helping kids and keeping them safe.”

North also sees a big challenge in the disconnect between manufacturers and consumers with food allergies. Manufacturers are required to list only the eight most common allergens on their labels. North hopes SnackRoots can create safe snacks while promoting brands and manufacturers that are more transparent in their labeling process.

SnackRoots has been up and running since November. North is excited to see it grow. She has plans to simplify the website and wishes to expand to the international market. North appreciates her time at UC, which fueled her lifelong curiosity for learning.

“UC taught me how to learn, be flexible and use technology in innovative ways,” North said. “I now want to take that knowledge to create a more compassionate and inclusive world for people.” 

SnackRoots is helping shape this world for children with food allergies.