After having children with life-threatening food allergies and celiac disease, and finding out she had celiac disease herself, Jackie Ourman became overwhelmed with all of the dietary restrictions in the family.
She wasn’t satisfied with many of the recipes that were out there so she took matters into her own hands by attending the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC, starting a food blog, and
Describe your journey to Irvington, NY
When we first had kids I was reluctant to leave NYC but we slowly made our way up the West side. The first stop was Riverdale. We liked being close to Manhattan but after a few years, decided to move to Westchester.
We looked in Rye and Scarsdale mostly but ended up in Irvington based on a recommendation from a friend who was familiar with our house, and the builder and loved the neighborhood.
When you moved to Irvington, did you know anyone? How did you make friends?
Right after we decided to buy our house, the aforementioned friend connected me with a woman who lived a few houses up the road.
Coincidentally there was a happy hour organized for all of the women on our street the day we closed. I was introduced to everyone in the neighborhood that night. It was a warm welcome!
Irvington is a very low key community, I found it very easy to make friends when I moved here. My advice to anyone who moves here is to put yourself out there and reach out to others or get involved in the schools your kids attend.
If you have little ones, go to the park with them. You shouldn’t find it hard to meet people here at all.
How old are your boys? What do you like to do with them in the area?
My boys are 9, 12, and 14 (going on 15 in a couple of weeks). Our weekday evenings and weekends are filled mostly with sports.
You can generally find me driving all three around to basketball, tennis, baseball and lacrosse practices. I often joke that I’m basically an uber driver.
The older boys also take piano lessons and play instruments in band. When we have downtime, we generally just chill at home. I’m done driving!
Can you describe your social life?
I have a great group of friends here. We make a point to get together to grab a drink or dinner at least every couple of weeks. I also belong to a book club that meets about once a month.
How would you describe Irvington residents?
Low key and very friendly. When the kids were young it was always nice to know other families were there looking out for them, especially when I was in school or working part-time and I wasn’t around.
Other parents would text me and let me know they saw the boys at the playground or out and about, they met their new sitter and and that they were happy and in good hands.
Now that the kids are older I feel there is a general camaraderie amongst the kids and the parents. We are a small community and a lot of us have known each other since the kids were in preschool. It’s really nice to see them all grow up together.
What are your favorite restaurants in Irvington or in the area?
Irvington has great restaurants and because of that, we generally stay local when we dine out in Westchester. Mima Vinoteca, Red Hat on the River, La Chinita Poblano and MP Taverna are our favorites. They have been very accommodating with our food allergies and restrictions as well.
We also have a great frozen yogurt place, BRRZARR that’s nice for the kids to walk down to after school, especially when it’s nice out.
What are your go-to places in Irvington or in the area?
Irvington is a small village. As such, there really aren’t too many places to go to other than all of the restaurants. We have a really nice yoga studio, YogaWorks and an intense megaformer studio (think SLT), Method Fitness.
Geordane’s is a great market and the owner, Dani, sells high quality meats, fish and many other foods. She is wonderful about ordering some specialty allergy-friendly items we need.
We also have gorgeous views of the Hudson river at Scenic Hudson and Matthiessen Parks. The fireworks on the 4th of July are amazing and there is a fun Rocktoberfest every fall with live music and food trucks.
What are some things you don’t like about Irvington?
We generally have to drive anywhere from 10-20 minutes to go most places since we are so small and there aren’t a lot of shops or larger grocery stores in town. It’s a small price to pay for living in a beautiful, quite town.
Are you a member of a country club/beach club/yacht club? If so, which one?
We joined Tarrycrest Swim and Tennis Club a few years after we moved here. We just wanted a place for the kids to swim with their friends and the tennis program is great for all ages.
Ardsley Country Club is a few minutes away and Irvington Boat and Beach Club is also a place where some of our friends belong.
What has your experience been with schools in the area?
We are having a great experience with the schools in Irvington. We moved here when my youngest was 4. The kids went to Good Shepherd Early Childhood Center and Elmwood Day School which were both great. My boys are now in 3 different schools; Dows Lane Elementary School, Irvington Middle School and Irvington High School.
I love that we have two elementary schools. Dows Lane is for grades K-3 and Main Street School (MSS) is for 4th and 5th grades. Both schools are wonderful but those 2 years at MSS are a very special time where our kids gain some independence, bridge the gap and really get prepared for middle school.
Our middle and high schools are on the same campus. There are a lot of opportunities for our kids to take honors and AP level courses as well as a good variety of electives and clubs.
I’ve been especially impressed with our band program. They really engage the kids in middle school and keep a good number of them playing in high school too. They are clearly doing something right. My sons both enjoy playing and my 9th grader had an opportunity to participate in the marching band, wind and jazz ensembles this year.
What has your experience been with Irvington Schools on food allergies?
When my oldest started in Kindergarten, Irvington didn’t really have a good system in place for managing children with food allergies in the schools. When we realized 10 kids out of 120 in his grade were impacted, we worked together to make some improvements.
I was so appreciative of the school’s willingness to partner on this initiative. We really overhauled the system and now I think our lower schools, especially, can serve as a model for how other schools manage food allergies. You can read all about what we did in this article in Westchester Family Magazine.
Do you or your spouse commute to the city? What has your experience been with the commute?
My husband commutes to the city every day. I also did for a couple of years when I was in culinary school and then freelancing in the test kitchen at Bon Appétit Magazine.
The commute is enjoyable and lasts anywhere from 38-50 minutes depending if you catch an express or local train. The ride is scenic and beautiful, as it travels up and down the Hudson River.
There is a parking lot with monthly passes and paid spots for daily commuters. When we moved here in 2008 there wasn’t a waitlist but I’m not sure if there is one now.
If so, the daily spots can work while you wait but they fill up quickly so you should get there early.
You are a chef/allergy advocate and have a blog. Tell me more about how you got started.
My oldest son has life-threatening food allergies. Additionally, my middle son, and subsequently myself and my youngest, were diagnosed with celiac disease. To say I was overwhelmed with all of our dietary restrictions would be an understatement.
I had always loved food but was beginning to fear it. I wanted to re-establish a positive connection, regain my passion and learn how to feed my family.
I wasn’t satisfied with many of the recipes that were out there so I decided to develop my own. I created a blog to chronicle my journey through culinary school and provide recipes and resources to others.
While sharing recipes, I also discussed a lot of the day to day issues I faced as a mom of young children, in general, and with celiac disease and food allergies. I also shared other resources as I tried to advocate for those issues.
You are involved in EAT. Tell me more about EAT.
In May 2015, I happened upon information about a new non-profit in the food allergy space that was dedicated towards raising money to fund a cure for life-threatening food allergies, End Allergies Together (EAT).
I immediately contacted the founders and asked to feature them on my site. I connected with their mission instantly and offered to help in any way I can. I began working with them then on an informal basis and then more formally in May 2017 when I became the Director of Partnerships and Outreach.
To date, EAT has donated over $1.7MM to food allergy research. We underwrite our administrative expenses so over 90 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to those working on a cure for food allergies.
Everyone on our team is personally impacted and as such, our motivations are purely to end this epidemic. We have an independent medical advisory board and an excellent grant process.
In addition to the work we are doing to fund research, we have also worked with BBDO NY to create two PSAs; “Could You EAT?” with celebrity chef Ming Tsai to create a better understanding and awareness of what it is like to live with food allergies and “Give and Go” with Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis to help people understand that immediate epinephrine use is the only effective treatment for anaphylaxis.
I am incredibly proud of the work we are doing and would love for anyone who reads this and is interested in learning more or wants to get involved to contact me.
About Jackie Ourman
Jackie was a Vice President, Human Resources Generalist in the Investment Banking and Fixed Income Divisions at Bank of America, Citigroup and also at State Farm Insurance for 7 years. After having children with life-threatening food allergies and celiac disease, and finding out she had celiac disease herself, Jackie attended the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and began a food blog with recipes and resources for those living with similar issues. Upon graduating from the Culinary Management and Arts programs with honors, Jackie worked in the test kitchens at Bon Appétit Magazine and Epicurious. She is an editor at FeedFeed and Huffington Post and has contributed to various publications including Food & Wine. Jackie is passionate about working towards finding a cure for life-threatening food allergies and has partnered with End Allergies Together nearly from its inception until recently becoming their Director of Partnerships and Outreach.
Follow Jackie Ourman
@jackieourman on Instagram
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