Who (or what?) is FAST?
Food Allergy Survivors Together is an online only support group for people with food allergies in the family, friends of those with food allergies, and individuals with food allergies. It is a free support group to belong to. That's right--membership is completely free! (By the way, FAST does not solicit nor accept donations. If someone writes to you asking for money for the site, please be aware that it is not an e-mail sent from FAST! FAST also does not put up any advertisement banners. All advertisement banners are put up by the free services I use in order to provide the website.) And while that has benefits, it also had drawbacks. First, the website is a personal website (not an organization and not a doctor) run by one person (me, Melissa). I do not have the funds to have my own domain, do public speaking, promotions, etc. Please be patient and understand that the site is run by one person. Since this website is put together by one person (with submissions from others), there are mistakes within it--guaranteed! There is also outdated information--guaranteed! That's why it's a good idea to double-check everything you read here with a board-certified allergist. If you or your doctor find something on a page that you know is in error, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Since the site is so large, something out-of-date may exist.
As far as its history, FAST was started in 1994 as a complimentary local newsletter. I could not find a support group nearby, yet I had a desire to communicate with other people who have food allergies. I have struggled with delayed and immediate food allergies since I was born (exhibited in frequent/chonic eczema, rashes, hives, vomiting, etc.), but was undiagnosed until I was a teenager, when I became so sick that I was primarily bedridden for a time.
In 1997, I decided to put the group online and allow for exchange of information through the use of interactive tools such as a mailing list, message board (now pooled with the list), and chat room. I could only find one website online about food allergies--and I didn't discover it until after starting FAST. (I'm sure you know what site was already online--it's the most well-known allergy organization.)
Everything on FAST is free, and I literally spend countless volunteer hours managing this website. In the case of the minimal non-free items, no profit is intended to be made. Indeed, if I put in all of the hours I spend on FAST, I can guarantee that no one would be willing to switch jobs with me. The financial disclosure on this page will show you a good break down of how the outgoing costs outweigh the incoming. I believe in full disclosure and members of the mailing list receive a yearly income disclosure from me.
FAST's mission is to help equip adults with allergies, parents with allergic children, and children with allergies with a support-line through the Internet. It was originally especially meant for those in secluded areas, and the home-bound, who do not otherwise have any support. FAST does not believe in, nor support, self-diagnosis or alternative medicine/treatments. Therefore, you will not find that sort of information here. FAST is not supported or endorsed by any company, so you will also not find biased reviews here. What you will find are other mothers, fathers, adults with allergies, and children with allergies with whom to share your feelings, recipes, and more.
What is your stance on allergy cures?
There are no claims for cures on this site (I personally believe there are no cures). There are no hints on how to diagnose yourself (I believe a board-certified allergist must diagnose you). This website is only intended as a supplement for moral and emotional support. It is not intended to replace the advice of your allergist. Having an allergist is your best resource in the struggle with food allergies. S/he can give you (or your child) prescriptions, notes to school/workplace, and more in order to make your life a bit easier.
Food Allergy Survivors Together does not endorse nor support any food allergy cure, nor believe that there is one. However, since the website is based on free servers and the servers use advertising to remain free, occasionally "cure" ads will pop up.
For up-to-date and accurate food allergy information--especially regarding cures and treatments--the best thing might be to just keep watching your local news! When there is a realistically promising treatment or cure on the horizon, it will be well publicized.
The advertisements that appear on FAST DO NOT benefit FAST. However, you can find FAST-related items here: http://www.angelfire.com/mi/FAST/boutique.html.
As for the ads that appear on the site, I have to use a free site provider (the financial disclosure on this page helps you see why!), and they do put up targeted ads. However, the ads are somewhat difficult as they pick up on key words on sites. For example, if someone says "we do not believe in food allergy cures," most likely an ad for an allergy cure is what will pop up, because it sees these target words. Or if you say, "I don't like spiders," an ad for a tarantula store may appear on the top of the page. Though these ads are considered "smart ads," all the kinks aren't worked out. These ads do not benefit FAST and the site has no control over them. (If one looks interesting (for example, a gluten-free mail order company), please do feel free to click through! After all, these ads help keep FAST free by keeping the services I use free.)
Where are you located? I would like to visit/send for information.
Unfortunately, FAST is only located on the web. The group is an online support group for people who cannot find help locally. However, you may be able to find local support groups by clicking here: http://www.angelfire.com/mi/FAST/support.html.
Many people have written and asked for me to send print information. This is not something I can do, since FAST is just a personal website. However, you can buy a copy of the FAST Handbook or Journal if you do want allergy information "in print." This was the purpose behind my publishing books; best of all, the information is different than what appears online. I know just what it's like to get worn eyes from staring at a computer screen for too long! ;) Visit here: http://www.angelfire.com/mi/FAST/handbook.html and http://www.angelfire.com/mi/FAST/journal.html.
I see you are now selling things. Is FAST a business? Has the site been sold?
No. Below is the financial "report" for FAST for the year of 2003. FAST mailing list members receive a free yearly income report, since I believe in full disclosure. This table shows how the website is more of a financial downfall than something that generates an income--I have had to slow down on any "hard copy" resources for members. Besides what is shown, hours and hours of volunteer work (mostly by one person, but with helpers on the mailing list) go into maintaining and updating the aspects of the site and answering e-mails.
|Publishing costs of handbook
|Copyright costs of handbook
|Book sales (2002-2003)
|Total 2003: -$96.38
As you can see, FAST is a labor of love, not a business in any way, shape, or form! I seem to go through a computer or major computer part regularly as well, and the Internet connection (which we have maintained in order to run FAST) fees are not even factored above, so the list of expenses is not complete.
FAST is NOT a registered "non-profit," but what many people don't realize is that a non-profit organization can actually profit/benefit the CEO, founder, and employees, who often draw substantial salaries, sometimes quite a percentage cut of money received as donations! Despite being asked, no one who volunteers for FAST has the financial capacity to do outreach, publicity, meetings, etc. This is also why so many ads appear on FAST and FAST features--it's because the servers who provide these services free to me need to support their own sites. The ads are never put online by me and do not benefit me.
In all honesty, it would be nice if FAST did bring in more. But my goal has always been to have a free forum for people with food allergies, and for this reason I have resisted charging for anything except outside resources. As a young teen, I did not have money to belong to a club when I was diagnosed with food allergies. I do not have money to belong to one now, either. I know many of you also may not, but still want to belong to a group. FAST is here for people just like you.
I don't agree with the rules on FAST. Should I join anyway?
In short, no.
When members follow the rules, my job is easier and less time-consuming, and members are more content when no one is flaming them. Thus it is very unwelcome when someone comes in and tries to throw a wrench into a working machine. The rules have all been set from years of seeing what "works." They exist for a good reason. I've also been informed by members that they appreciate how supportive our group members are to one another. That only happens when we follow the rules!
99% of FAST members are supportive, kind, and encouraging. Every once in a while someone will join who likes to challenge the rules and upset our normal routine. I believe that we all need support, no matter our personalities, but I have realized over the years of running this support group that these individuals will continue to press buttons, and cause an overall negative mood to emerge on forums where they are members. (This is not to say that you can't be upset on the forums and talk about bad things that happened to you; after all, we're a support group. Instead, this refers to those who ignore the rules and upset other members.)
The moderators are strict with who is a member of the FAST mailing list. As mentioned before, 99% of members are supportive and belong in our group. However, if you are a rule-breaker, rule-tester, rule-challenger, or generally someone who likes to push buttons or start fights, you're not welcome on the forums. Since we're meant to be a support group, we have to be strict about who is a member. However, you are more than welcome to visit the site itself! Everyone is welcome on the website.
If you are a rule-follower who is looking forward to a supportive atmosphere, you're always welcome on the forums. The rules are there because they have been proven to work. Without them, FAST would not be the supportive group that it is.
Please read the
Mailing List Rules.
Once you've read them and agree with them, please join a forum--it helps the rest of us get to know you.
How do you feel about people taking information off the website?
This entire site has an implied copyright. Much of this site also has registered copyright, meaning it has been filed with the US copyright office. Visitors are encouraged to reproduce material from this site by printing them directly on the printer for themselves and for friends, allergists, health food stores, etc. (personal use only), as long as said material is distributed at no cost, and with credit to FAST (in name, and also by listing the website URL) and the contributor of the said item, and a note that it is under copyright protection. Something you are printing out directly from the webpage in its entirity (for example, the school contact form, recipes, newsletter, etc.) doesn't require permission. However, if you intend to reproduce something that is a section of a page (for example, putting one of the FAST recipes in your support group's newsletter) and place it in another source or publication, you definitely need to ask first. This is actually no different than any other website--even though it may sound strict, it's the law.
Is FAST for parents of children with allergies, children with allergies, or adults with allergies?
FAST was originally started as a newsletter in a health-food store, and it was intentionally for adults with allergies, exclusively. However, the web site is for all of the above, as well as friends and loved ones of those with allergies who want to find out more. I hope people from all situations will be helped by what they find here. Since a lot of the participation, such as a mailing list, is exclusively by the visitors, who is helped depends on who participates. Finding others like you is as simple as joining the forum and actively participating.
How do I become a member?
There really isn't a membership to FAST. Just visiting makes you a "member." However, if you want to step that up one notch, the people on the mailing list are generally the ones who consider themselves members or "active members." Joining this is like being a member of a free support group with immediate contact with others who have allergies. And please don't just join and lurk--we all want to "meet" you!
Phew! That's enough "official talk." Let's get to the fun . . .