Group stages food fight to help gastroenterology research

Jello catapults and mayonnaise cannons make for a good food fight. Charity makes for an even better one.

Owen’s Outrageous Food Fight is a massive food fight that aims to raise awareness for pediatric gastroenterology research, said Raymond Luke, the event organizer and a Rutgers almunus.

Luke's son, Owen, has short bowel syndrome. The event aims to raise awareness for this and other related diseases.

Short bowel syndrome can occur when a baby is born with intestinal problems, said Iona Monteiro, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. 

If the abdominal wall is not developed and the intestines are outside the baby's body, or if the intestines are not formed in multiple locations, a surgeon will cut out parts of the intestine, leaving the baby with insufficient intestinal track, she said.

“Short bowel syndrome occurs when a person does not have sufficient intestines ... to be able to sustain life with oral feeding alone, and need intravenous feeds. It can also occur due to diseases ... that occur in the premature babies, and they require removal of large portions of the their intestines," Monteiro said in an email. 

Owen was diagnosed with a jejunal atresia, a rare genetic disorder, while still in the womb, Luke said. Parts of Owen's intestines were removed through numerous surgeries. Ultimately, he had too little intestine and remains on intravenous nutrients until his bowel can adapt.

"We would have nurses in our home at night, and that is how it has been for the past three years," Luke said in an email. "He is doing better and eating more, but he still has the central line and night nurses."

If Owen develops a fever, he goes to a hospital for three days to make sure he doesn't have a blood infection, Luke said.

Research for gastrointestinal conditions does not receive much funding, as these disorders have little visibility.

The goal of the food fight is to raise awareness and funding for issues relating to pediatric gastroenterology diseases, Luke said. The food used for the event will either be waste scraps or simulated food items. The food is safe to fight with.

At least 50 percent of the profits gleaned from the event would be given to charity, he said.

“This is a low estimate because we are still pricing the venues, permits (and) food to fight with," he said. "That estimate also assumes that none of the materials for the event would be donated and we would have to purchase it ourselves. "

The percent donated will increase with the number of participants, as Luke said the cost of the fight would be spread out. 

Gastrointestinal conditions are rarely spoken about, Luke said. The mission of the food fight is to help people have fun, raise awareness for pediatric gastrointestinal conditions and fund research.

“Maybe that is because people have a hard time talking about vomit and puke, but (gastrointestinal) conditions rarely get the same attention as other systemic disorders," he said. "It is important to my family because we want my son to grow up in a world where he can feel comfortable talking about his illness."

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