11-year-old knows what it’s like to live with food allergies, and he’s lobbying the legislature for help – Orange County Register

Editor’s note: Sacramento Snapshot is a weekly series during the legislative session detailing what Orange County’s representatives in the Assembly and Senate are working on — from committee work to bill passages and more.

Zacky Muñoz knows a thing or two about severe food allergies.

And at just 11 years old, he knows a bit about passing legislation, too.

A small and tie-clad Muñoz greeted legislators last week as he made the rounds in Sacramento encouraging support for a bill bearing his name and efforts to protect children from lethal allergic reactions on school campuses.

Dubbed the Muñoz Student Allergy Framework for Emergencies (SAFE) Act, the bill requires schools to store epinephrine auto-injectors, like an EpiPen, in accessible locations along with instructions on how to use the auto-injectors. It also allows certified volunteers to undergo training so they can administer EAIs during emergencies.

“The best tool to combat food allergies is your voice. Being able to be part of the change to make things safer is what I am most proud of,” said Muñoz. “It makes a difference. Your voice can make a big difference in the world.”

Zacky Muñoz, 11, of Pasadena accepts a commendation from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, R-5th District, in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday. The sixth-grader spearheaded the distribution of a new online guide to California school districts that provides information to help students with food allergies. (Photo by Anissa Rivera)
Zacky Muñoz, 11, of Pasadena accepts a commendation from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, R-5th District, in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday. The sixth-grader spearheaded the distribution of a new online guide to California school districts that provides information to help students with food allergies. (Photo by Anissa Rivera)

Muñoz has several severe food allergies and suffered multiple anaphylactic attacks while in the first grade. He is grateful there was epinephrine — and people who could administrate it — then.

“When you have an anaphylactic reaction, time is of the essence and every minute counts,” he said. “And epinephrine is our only lifeline when having an anaphylactic reaction.”

It was after those incidents that Muñoz and his mom, Priscilla Hernandez, sat down at their kitchen table to discuss how they could help other kids with food allergies. That kitchen table discussion led to Zacky’s Bill, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year, which requires the state Department of Education to make a food allergy resource guide available to all school districts.

The mother-son duo from Pasadena were back in Sacramento last week to ensure greater and easier access to epinephrine.

“Our biggest responsibility as parents is to ensure (our kids’) safety, and this is something that is at the forefront of their health and safety,” said Hernandez.

An estimated 32 million people in the U.S. have food allergies, including 5.6 million children, according to the nonprofit FARE which is focused on food allergy awareness, research and education. The most common food allergies include shellfish, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat.

From Assemblymember Kate Sanchez, R-Rancho Santa Margarita, the bill sailed through both chambers and passed out of Appropriations on Friday.

“No student should feel unsafe on campus, and no parent should have to worry about whether their child’s school has the tools to keep them safe,” said Sanchez.

The bill, Sanchez said, “will help ensure that our schools will be better equipped to reduce the likelihood of lethal allergic reactions on campus.”

Ahead of Friday’s clearing out of bills on the suspense file, Muñoz did his favorite thing in Sacramento: He walked around and talked to legislators.

“Hi, legislator. My name is Zacky Muñoz, and I’m 11 years old, and I’m here to support the Muñoz SAFE Act,” he said.

Seyarto takes leadership post

Senate Republicans have a new caucus chair: Sen. Kelly Seyarto, R-Murrieta.

Seyarto takes over the position from Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Huntington Beach Republican who is running for a county supervisor seat. The minority caucus chair’s job is to provide leadership for Senate Republicans while also supporting Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones.

“You can create and build a team that doesn’t listen to anybody but you’re weakening government by doing that,” said Seyarto. “We have an opportunity to show Californians there’s a different way of providing leadership in California and running a government that is fair to everybody.”

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Although there are only eight Senate Republicans, Seyarto noted they together represent millions of Californians.

“This is an opportunity for us to continue to build on the efforts we’ve done in the past to make sure their voices are heard even though we’re a little outnumbered,” Seyarto said.

The 32nd Senate district includes portions of Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino and Orange counties, including Yorba Linda.

In other news

• More than 1,000 people gathered for a rally at the Capitol on Thursday in support of a bill that would make child trafficking a serious felony and to oppose others that would allow parole in certain cases for those sentenced to life in prison, voting rights for incarcerated felons and more. Put on by Assembly Republicans, the rally included business owners, law enforcement officials and victim advocates.

“We don’t want soft-on-crime policies that make it harder for store owners to defend themselves,” said Assemblymember Laurie Davies, R-Laguna Niguel. “We don’t want policies that make it unsafe for our kids to play outside. And we don’t want policies that give criminals a free pass for heinous crimes.”

The trafficking bill was OK’d by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Friday, albeit with amendments.

• Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, was recognized with the Vincent Chin Civil Rights Champion Award by the League of California Cities Asian Pacific Islander Caucus.

“This recognition is a testament to Sen. Min’s unwavering dedication to advocating for marginalized communities and combatting hate-driven actions,” said Juslyn Manalo, the API Caucus president and Daly City vice mayor.

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