by Leah Dean, Executive Director, F.E.A.S.T.
In 2014, F.E.A.S.T. Celebrated its 5th year as a non-profit organization. As the year comes to a close, it is appropriate to take a look back at our accomplishments, take stock of where we are, and invest in a plan that will take us forward towards fulfilling our mission.
F.E.A.S.T.’s Mission is simple:
To support caregivers of loved-ones with eating disorders by:
· providing information and mutual support
· promoting evidence-based treatment, and
· advocating for research and education to reduce the suffering associated with eating disorders.
When F.E.A.S.T. was founded in 2009 our five year goal was to make F.E.A.S.T. obsolete. Our original founding members envisioned:
· effective, evidence-based treatments for eating disorders accessible to all
· treatment in the least restrictive environment to provide for the patient’s well-being
· ED issues as part of all parent, health and mental health discussions
· Better ED education at graduate/post-graduate levels across disciplines
· Information for “at-risk” groups
· No more stigma
· Families finding answers
· Families connected and supporting each other worldwide
· EDs are curable
· Interdisciplinary research and communication in the health professional community
Five years later, F.E.A.S.T. is still here, staying true to our Mission and our Principles. While our dream is not yet a reality, progress has been made. The eating disorder advocacy community has grown, and F.E.A.S.T.’s founding principles have become more widely accepted and have inspired a new wave of collaboration between families, professionals and patients.
· Eating disorders are biologically based mental illnesses and fully treatable with a combination of nutritional, medical, and therapeutic supports.
· Parents do not cause eating disorders, and patients do not choose eating disorders.
· Parents and caregivers can be a powerful support for a loved one’s recovery from an eating disorder.
· Blaming and marginalizing parents in the eating disorder treatment process causes harm and suffering.
· Patients should receive evidence-based treatment, when available.
· Families should be supported in seeking the most appropriate treatment in the least restrictive environment possible.
· Food is medicine: all treatment should include urgent and ongoing nutritional rehabilitation.
· When the family is supported, the patient is supported.
· Siblings and parents are affected by a family member’s illness; their needs deserve full attention, too.
· Parents have a unique capacity to help other parents with support, information, and the wisdom of experience.
· NEW in 2012: F.E.A.S.T. is committed to a coalition-building model of advocacy work that requires mutual respect among caregivers, professionals, and patients.
Over the past five years, F.E.A.S.T. has established many important working relationships with other eating disorder organizations, and individuals in the field.
· We have an Advisory Panel of ED experts and advocacy leaders.
· F.E.A.S.T. is a Hope Circle member of the US Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC).
· Various F.E.A.S.T. members and volunteers are active members of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), and serve on AED Task Forces and Committees.
· F.E.A.S.T. participates in the bi-annual US NIMH Alliance for Research Progress meetings.
· F.E.A.S.T. is an Adversity2Advocacy (A2A) Ally Organization (a2aalliance.org)
These relationships have allowed us to partner with other organizations on special events, outreach initiatives, and to create and publish important resources for caregivers.
· F.E.A.S.T. has hosted three US Conferences, bringing together professionals, families and patients to share expertise, experiences, and communicate as peers. (Alexandria, Virginia – 2011 & 2012; Dallas, Texas – 2014)
· F.E.A.S.T. partnered with Janet Treasure, the Maudsley ECHO Project Team and Maudsley Carers to put on a Conference in Nottingham, England in 2012
· F.E.A.S.T. partnered with the Butterfly Foundation and ANZAED (The Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders) to put on a Conference in Brisbane, Australia in 2013.
· F.E.A.S.T. partnered with the EDC to organize and host "Ten Percent is Unacceptable," a Congressional Briefing at the US Capitol in November, 2012.
· F.E.A.S.T. has gathered members for EDC Lobby Days to visit and tell their stories at US Legislative Offices, including a special Lobby Day for F.E.A.S.T. Conference Attendees in November of 2012.
· F.E.A.S.T. partnered with the AED Family Based Treatment SIG to organize an "Ask a Caregiver" Webinar at our 2014 Dallas Conference. This event was livestreamed to more than 100 ED professionals and caregivers around the world. The recorded video has been viewed over 1200 times.
· F.E.A.S.T. Board member, Becky Henry worked with Mothers Against Eating Disorders (MAED), the EDC, and the Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness on the planning committee for the M.O.M. (Mothers and Others) March, in Washington DC. F.E.A.S.T. Founder, Laura Collins, was an invited speaker for the event.
· F.E.A.S.T. attends and exhibits at the AED's Annual International Conference on Eating Disorders.
· In 2014 F.E.A.S.T., BEDA, AED, and STRIPED worked together with the EDC to revise a 2009 "Talking Points" document to produce "Facts and Concerns About School-Based BMI Screening, Surveillance and Reporting", a new support document for a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC).(view PDF)
· Parent Advocate, F.E.A.S.T. Founding Member, and F.E.A.S.T. Advisor, Mary Beth Krohel, helped to form the AED Medical Care Standards Task Force (now the Medical Care Standards Committee). She has worked tirelessly on the creation and distribution of the AED Guide to Medical Management: "Eating Disorders--Critical Points for Early Recognition and Medical Risk Management in the Care of Individuals with Eating Disorders." F.E.A.S.T. helped raise funds for the 1st print edition of the Medical Guide, and distributes copies at professional and caregiver events.
· F.E.A.S.T. Family Guide Booklet Series: F.E.A.S.T. has brought together teams of eating disorder research and treatment experts to create a series of educational resources about eating disorders for the general public. Each booklet answers common questions by caregivers with factual, evidence-based information.
Other Collaborations, Successes & Recognitions:
· F.E.A.S.T. Directors have been invited to contribute to professional workshops, panel discussions, and write opinion articles for the professional journal, Advances in Eating Disorders: Theory, Research and Practice.
· F.E.A.S.T. Founder, Laura Collins presented: "Advantages of Brain Disorder Language from the Patient/Carer Perspective" at an AED Panel Presentation for the 2012 AED Annual Conference in Austin, TX. This talk led to the article, "The term 'brain disorder': a compass or a map?", which was published in the journal: Advances in Eating Disorders: Theory, Research and Practice Volume 1, Issue 1, 2013
· F.E.A.S.T. Founder, Laura Collins presented: "Do Carers Care About Research" at an AED Panel Presentation for the 2010 AED Annual Conference in Salzburg, Austria.
· F.E.A.S.T. raised $14,000 in 2014 for the Charlotte's Helix genetic database project.
· Mary Beth Krohel (2012) and Laura Collins (2014) were both awarded the AED's Meehan/Hartley Award for Public Service and/or Advocacy.
Looking forward, we are excited to see the grass-roots vision of F.E.A.S.T.’s founder, Laura Collins, inspiring new actions by parent advocates that support F.E.A.S.T.’s principles. As an established organization we look forward to identifying specific opportunities to work alongside the many new ED advocacy groups that are forming worldwide. As always, we welcome any individuals who agree with our principles to join F.E.A.S.T. and become one of the dedicated volunteers working behind the scenes to support our mission, goals, and future plans.