Allergies are a common concern in schools, with numerous students facing potentially life-threatening reactions to prevalent allergens. Nationwide, 33 million Americans suffer from food allergies. Recognizing the urgency to protect students with allergies, Zacky M. ’30 and his family have become advocates on the issue.
In first grade, Zacky had two anaphylactic reactions at school after unknowingly ingesting sesame from the Dining Commons. Both times Marcy Kwitny, Poly's school nurse and Director of Health Services, administered an EpiPen. At some schools, EpiPens, a life-saving medication, is kept in a safe or not easily accessible despite it needing to be administered in the first five to 10 minutes of a reaction. Ever since these experiences, Zacky and his family have been busy speaking to state and national legislators about food safety and precautions that can save lives at schools.
“I think it's really important to advocate for food allergies. I hope it inspires many people to advocate for themselves for allergies and all,” said Zacky. “My favorite part is speaking to legislators, telling them about my side of the story, telling them how this will affect the world and how it will affect California.”
, AB2640, passed in California in 2022 and ensures that online resources will be available through the Department of Education on how to accommodate those with food allergies in schools, how to understand ingredient labels, and create awareness for laws that exist federally and locally to protect students. Zacky personally lobbied lawmakers to help pass the bill and met Governor Newsom on Zoom when it was put into effect.
“Zacky has been a champion every step of the way, sitting down with legislators — speaking about what he has experienced and how to make positive change for other kids like him,” shared Priscilla Hernandez, Zacky’s mom. “He has testified in the state houses and was successful in pushing the bill through to make it law.”
The Zacky’s Bill website will launch later this year, but in the meantime his family is staying busy by the Muñoz Safe Act AB1651, which puts more safety guards in place to protect students with food allergies needing access to epinephrine. We are proud of Zacky’s efforts at such a young age, both at Poly and nationally.