Kym Whitley Creates ‘Don’t Feed Me’ Shirts for Kids

03/22/2013 at 01:00 PM ET

Kym Whitley Allergies Don't Feed Me Shirt
Courtesy Don’t Feed Me

Kym Whitley‘s latest production is definitely a bit of food for thought.

After the actress discovered her son Joshua — whom she unexpectedly welcomed through adoption in 2011 — suffered from severe allergies, Whitley went to work to alert others of his forbidden foods.

According to the first-time mom, the risks of a child consuming the wrong things is something she knows all too well: Unfamiliar with Joshua’s allergies, his nanny fed him peanut butter, one of the many foods he cannot eat.

“Luckily, I was home,” Whitley tells ABC News. “That’s the thing: I heard that cough that sounded like what we had before he was tested.”

Her brainstorming led her to create a line of Don’t Feed Me shirts — retailing for $10 and available in red, blue, gray and orange — which provide caretakers with a visual aid of a child’s allergies.

Along with the colorful tops, which allow a parent to fill in their child’s name and then check off which foods could cause a reaction, Whitley has also put together similar packs — complete with the ‘Don’t Feed Me’ chart — where EpiPens can be stored.

Proceeds will go toward a college fund for Joshua, who proudly sports the shirts each time he has a new babysitter or attends a birthday party.

And soon fans will get a glimpse into Whitley’s world as she tackles the tough job of parenthood, a journey that began after a young woman she had been mentoring surrendered her newborn son at the hospital with the actress as the only contact.

Raising Whitley premieres at 10 p.m. April 20 on Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN network.

— Anya Leon

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Showing 22 comments

Michelle on

All though this is a cool idea, I don’t think it’s the right idea for kids. I’ll tell you my story…when I was a child I had a shirt that had my name, everywhere we went everyone was calling out my name (duh) however that made my grandmother think hmmm maybe it’s not such a good idea for a child to have their name on their clothing since not all people are good people in this world. I’m just saying.

Anonymous on

will they wear it everyday…weird

happygolucky on

Wow. I video brought tears to my eyes. It’s wonderful that they have each other.

Rachel on

I had the same response as Michelle and anonymous at first — that it’s kind of a strange idea and I don’t really think it’s safe to advertise kids names and info on their clothing, BUT it states in the post that he wears the shirts for things like b-day parties. I think it’s an okay idea for something like that, but at the same time in my opinion if you have a child with an allergy bad enough to need an epi-pen, they shouldn’t really be going to parties/sleepovers/etc… alone (ie; without you or someone who knows them and their allergy well) until they’re old enough to know their allergy and what they can/cannot eat.

As for a new babysitter… as someone who teaches children daily and babysits as well, when I do babysit, I don’t want to have this information on a t-shirt. I want to know it firsthand from mom and if they allergy is extreme then I want to know the specific foods your child can eat when I’m there! Your child’s teachers/school will have that info always available and if you have a sitter you can’t trust enough to remember that information without having to spell it out on their chest, then you shouldn’t trust them with your kid at all…

Anonymous on

Okay, why didn’t she tell the nanny Joshua was allergic to peanut butter?

Pippi777 on

I really like this idea! They’re to be worn for certain occasions, not every day. A birthday party, first time at church/new class, etc. If you don’t feel comfortable with their name on the shirt you could just write ‘Me’ in the name spot, too. Most people would assume that Me was the person wearing the shirt and not give the wearer anything that’s checked or written. Verbalize the allergies to the adult in charge, as well, but have the shirt for reinforcement the first time.

I’m a nanny and babysit, as well, and agree with Rachel. If you don’t trust the person you have scheduled to watch your kids not to give them something that they’re severely allergic to, then you should find someone that you can trust. If they have so many allergies that it takes to long to go over everything, have the allergic items written down just in cast anything is accidentally gotten (by another sibling), they have the info, but tell the caregiver EXACTLY what you want your child to have. By name brands. Have anything that doesn’t need refrigerated on the counter in 1 spot, then the caregiver knows that anything not in that area is a NO.

I have several severe allergies and asthma, and have an EpiPen myself. I have a few families with allergies: 1) 1 kid w/no nuts or shellfish & another kid w/no nuts or eggs. 2) 1 kid w/no nuts and potential asthma & another kid w/no allergies. 3) 1 kid w/no dairy, nuts, eggs, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds & another kid w/no allergies.

They have all told me that while they aren’t glad I have these issues, they are glad that my experiences help me to recognize the reactions in their children and that I know how to administer any treatment that they may need. Without the parents even having to show me how to do so. And it is safer for no overnights unless you have explicit trust in the caregiver that they can handle your child’s allergies.

tanya on

Great Idea! Especially for parties, play dates, a new sitter. You don’t have to fill out the name portion of the shirt. Any parent that attends a birthday party or gathering, bbq, etc, knows how easily it is for a child to run off and play with other kids, and it will let all adults in attendance of the gathering know that the child has allergies. I don’t think the child is playing up and down the street with the shirt on, simply because that is not the purpose.

I wish Kim well, she seems like such a beautiful person and bless her and her son. She is such a funny lady, I will be watching her show.

MJ on

I think some don’t realize the sheer terror a caregiver (parent, grandparent, sitter, etc.) feels when they give or accidently almost give an allergic child a forbidden and potentially deadly food. We are human, sometimes we might temporarily forget and that could cost us dearly.

This is a terrific idea, thank you, thank you, thank you! I had laminated cards listing my loved ones allergy to post on the refrigerator and put in their book bags.

Pippi777 on

Good idea about the laminated cards, too, MJ!

I gave 1 of my kiddos that I watch a pretzel with sesame seeds on it (sesame seeds NOT a known allergen). 2 minutes later his mom tells me “We’re having him tested for sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.” And he reacted to it, of course! I felt beyond awful all night! Mom and dad didn’t blame me. Instead they said “We didn’t know. It’s a new allergy. It could’ve easily been us that did it.” Didn’t make me feel any less awful, though!!

Rusty on

I volunteer in my son’s SE classroom. And while nobody has life threatening allergies, several kids have dietary restrictions. You might have been told “Aiden” can’t have red food coloring, but during the bakery field trip it can be tough to remember which kid is Aiden? (And for that matter, which Aiden???) While these shirts won’t replace informed and observant adults… they wouldn’t hurt.

Sarah on

I think this is a neat idea. It would be helpful for birthday parties. However, why was the nanny unaware of the allergy? I am a nanny and one of the first questions I ask is, “Are there any allergies I need to be aware of?”

I also ask that whenever a child comes over for a play-date. With allergies you can never be too careful. If the nanny or baby-sitter doesn’t ask it, it is up to the parent to tell them or have it written down clearly in an obvious place.

MommytoanE on

ITA…names are NOT to be on clothes. My daughter’s name is never on her clothing that’s exposed.

As for the shirt…its cute. But home made ones can be cuter. I remember 28 years ago at a family reunion my mom wrote on a teeshirt (plain white one) “Please don’t feed me! I’m allergic to eggs!” on the front and back for my lil brother…who has a deathly allergy to eggs. She used it at family reunions, and family gatherings but never to school or anything. Instead she went in and talked to the teachers and taught my brother to search for eggs in ingredients. He could read the letters E G G before he was 3. I think teaching kids about their allergies is more impt than just pushing it off on others.

Guest on

She is genius! For that ideal. She should sell it on QVC

Dee on

Interesting idea, but why not just tell people what your kid can’t have? And train your kid to know what to avoid, to ask “Does that have_____?” Rather than plastering their allergies all over a shirt, that someone may or may not read.

I have a kid with food allergies, I taught her to be proactive, instead of relying on strangers. Personal responsibility. We’ve been doing this since she was 2. The sooner you start the easier it is.

Kim on

You can tell the caregiver and use the t shirt as well.Sometimes at a party there may be several kids w allergies or one child w several allergies.What is the harm.Also some kids like my nephew who is autistic,are not able to verbalize their allergies.This way every adult at the party or reunion will know his food issues .

Jenn on

What a beautiful story. That almost sounds like a movie!

Kristina on

My brother was younger when he was diagnosed as a diabetic. He HATED the idea of wearing a bracelet or necklace that “showed” the world he was different. He’s in his 40s now and feels the same way.

I have an autistic son. When we went to Disney, I made a keyfob that had his and my names on it along with my cell phone number in case he got lost. He HATED it. None of my other kids had one. As my husband said, it is my job to keep an eye on him so he doesn’t get lost.

I think that these shirts (and also the bracelets, necklaces, keyrings, etc.) are handy for parents, but we also need to realize that sometimes kids don’t want to be recognized around their peers as being different. Adults knew about my brother. Adults know about my son. But to other kids, they were just normal kids/friends.

Anonymous on

Kristina- I get where you’re coming from, but as someone with mild disabilities, I don’t think it’s a good idea for kids disabilties or special issues (such as diabetes or severe allergies) to be kept a secret from their friends and classmates.

For example, knowing about my disabilities helped my classmates to understand that not everyone looks or acts like them and therefore to be more tolerant of me and others with disabilties (the fact that my school had an zero-tolerance policy for bullying that was actually enforced helped, too).

Also, kids with more severe disabilites sometimes do things that can be quite frightening to other kids if they don’t know why they’re doing them. Being told why their classmate does these things can help ease or even eliminate that fear.

And finally, a kid can’t, for example, know how to aid a classmate or friend who’s having a seizure (and potentially even save the friend’s life!) if they don’t even know he or she has epilepsy!

Jessica on

As a designer i agree this idea is flawed.. The name should not be there for safety purposes. What WOULD be more effective is a well-designed tee that illustrates a food he cannot eat rather than making him look like a walking notepad, if he is put in a situation like a bday or camp where it’s harder to notify people. Hire a designer!

J-Lin on

Don’t people teach their kids not to go with strangers regardless of if they know their name? Considering their are a million Emmas, Madisons, Conners, and Parkers, someone knowing their name doesn’t mean they know you.

ECW on

These comments are so negative, if it works for her it might work for others…If you don’t like the idea or don’t plan to get the shirt move on!!!!!!!!!

Thehumbleneophyte on

This idea is a great one for those it’s great for! Why not dig into your human bag & leave your animal harsh comments out of the discussion. Even animals are more respected. Designers, & narcissists aren’t the topic here. It’s about the love for a child. PERIOD! The forum should be used to help mothers/parents facing indifferences with their babies. Being a parent is one of life’s most joyous & neophyting things. Albeit, Madam Kym became a mommy later in life but IT WAS THE PERFECT TIME FOR HER &AND HER PRECIOUS BABY BOY! The back story is beautiful. I wish my mum had cared that much about me to find me a mum, any mum. And yes, I know what I said. Celebrity or not, she still should be extended that olive branch of motherhood & support as any other new mommy should. If the idea doesn’t work for u, DON’T INDULGE IT. The idea has both good & not-so-good points but as a community of parents, we should be able to voice opinions as adults without ripping someone apart. The elation of mommyhood can be overwhelming at times but we get better as time goes on. Parenting does not come with any etched rules. Winging it, trial/error, praying & even crossing your fingers are all conventional & non conventional ways of parenting. All the stuff books are written about. But not the books that come with becoming a parent because there aren’t any. The egg or the chicken? Bottom line is, loosen up ppl. None are perfect. The shirts are a cute/informative idea in ADDITION to alerting everyone who cares for your babes of such vital info but the idea could use a bit of tweaking. After all, it’s pretty much a situational concept. Not every day. With the right amount if tweaking, every alerting could be done in extended areas of the same idea. Wish Madam Kym would accept a bit of help from me. 🙂