St Paul’s Catholic School Latest News

Student Explores Allergies For EPQ Project

Sixth Form student with EPQ project

A Sixth Form student at St Paul’s has drawn on her personal experience of living with allergies for her Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) which examines how allergy friendly UK and US restaurants are. As part of her EPQ she created a vlog series on YouTube called ‘Willow vs Allergy’.

For her research Willow visited a number of UK restaurants as well as restaurants in the Disneyworld resort in Florida. She chose Disneyworld as it is a huge leisure operation serving millions of customers. It is also an organisation she is very familiar with as her family have holidayed at the resort for around 10 years. Because of her allergies, she has been able to establish a good rapport with their chefs and catering team and is aware of their high standards in relation to allergy friendly foods.

At Disney she was able to speak to and email chefs and their culinary dietary specialist who is responsible for training, looks at how allergies are communicated and sets up menus. She learnt that at one restaurant alone, of the 1000 people that come in every day, 200 of them have allergies.

Willow was able to learn more about their practices including special allergy friendly menus which make it easier for chefs to cook the right foods and for customers to choose their meals. Guests with allergies can also ask to consult with a member of Disney’s special diets team who will advise them about the best menu options for them. Sometimes, off-menu meals can be created. They have a yellow ticket system which means that only the chef that has written the ticket can cook the meal and food is cooked in a separate area.

In judging the UK restaurants Willow’s criteria included how comfortable she felt as an allergic customer, how safe it was for people with allergies and how clean the area was.  She also looked at cohesion (the timing of the food coming out, whether it looked the same) and finally, an allergy crew score from friends helping her conduct the research.

Of the UK restaurants sampled, only two met her allergy friendly criteria, a dessert shop in London and a restaurant in Milton Keynes. On arriving at the other UK restaurants, Willow found that they did not have the right allergy procedures in place for her to have an allergy friendly meal there.

In addition to her vlog Willow has also detailed her research in a 60 page book and created some special allergy graphics.

Willow said:  “As an allergy sufferer my daily life is very different to many other people, I hope that through my EPQ and vlog I can help empower people to ask questions about allergies and to inspire change. I’m very grateful to the chefs and staff at Disney who were so gracious with their time and to my family and friends who formed the allergy crew, helping with my research.”

After taking her A-levels in Product Design, Film Studies and Photography  Willow hopes to study Graphic Design at the University of Leeds.

You can find her vlog on YouTube here 

More information about allergies can be obtained from the UK charity, Anaphylaxis Campaign on their website here  

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