The crusade to create a law in Rachel Hunger’s name begins again

  • David and Jennifer Hunger in their Concord home on Friday, Feb. 12. Jennifer is hoping to convince legislators this coming Tuesday to convince lawmakers to adopt Rachel’€™s Law in honor of their daughter. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • David and Jennifer Hunger in their Concord home on Friday. Jennifer is hoping to convince legislators this coming Tuesday to convince lawmakers to adopt Rachel’€™s Law in honor of their daughter. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • David and Jennifer Hunger in their Concord home on Friday, February 12, 2021. Jennifer is hoping to convince legislators this coming Tuesday to convince lawmakers to adopt Rachel’s Law in honor of their daughter. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • David and Jennifer Hunger in their Concord home on Friday, February 12, 2021. Jennifer is hoping to convince legislators this coming Tuesday to convince lawmakers to adopt Rachel’s Law in honor of their daughter. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • David and Jennifer Hunger in their Concord home on Friday, February 12, 2021. Jennifer is hoping to convince legislators this coming Tuesday to convince lawmakers to adopt Rachel’s Law in honor of their daughter. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • David and Jennifer Hunger in their Concord home on Friday, February 12, 2021. Jennifer is hoping to convince legislators this coming Tuesday to convince lawmakers to adopt Rachel’s Law in honor of their daughter. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Photos of Rachel Hunger on the dining room table of the family home on Saturday, January 25, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Jennifer Hunger holds a drawing of her daughter Rachel by family friend Heidi Osterhout inspired by a photo of Rachel taken at the beach. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Rachel Hunger Courtesy

Monitor columnist
Published: 2/13/2021 1:02:00 PM

Jennifer Hunger, drained by a COVID-delayed legislative process and fearful a law honoring her daughter would fade, admits she needed to “reignite.”

Jennifer had maintained momentum and hope through three committee meetings at the Legislative Office Building in her effort last year to convince lawmakers to adopt Rachel’s Law, explaining at the initial meeting that her daughter had died needlessly from an allergic reaction to peanuts.

She had asked for a law seeking more communication between servers and customers about food allergies, and finally, on March 11, 2020, Jennifer hit the House floor, with its grand ceilings and history to listen to the vote. The House gave the bill the green light, approving it, 232-18.

Then, just four days later, COVID struck, and our lawmaking process, as we knew it, was gone, as was a mother’s attempt to create something great from something awful.

Balancing the loss of her daughter with the legal setback short-circuited some of Jennifer’s emotions, numbing her, especially as the pandemic wore on. Her source of strength? Rachel, who had died from her food allergy to peanuts, well known to the family by then, in a Durham restaurant in 2019.

“The days were really hard after a while,” Jennifer said. “So I turned to my daughter for help. She loved to get angry about stuff. She was easily riled, so I have to channel her energy and get this done.”

Jennifer and Team Rachel will return on Tuesday for a remote public hearing, kick-starting the process stalled a year ago, when Jennifer’s high-octane approach was relentless.

She was excited then, ready to start the long, arduous ride to create a law paying tribute to Rachel, who was 21 when she died.

Rachel was a student at the University of New Hampshire. She was out having dinner with friends in April, 2019. She had a peanut allergy and ate something she didn’t know contained peanut paste.

Two EpiPens failed to stabilize her. Rachel went into anaphylactic shock. Her brain was deprived of oxygen for 30 minutes. She was taken off life support on May 8.

Later that year, Jennifer and a bipartisan group of lawmakers chose to get something on the books to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again.

“Requiring food service establishments to establish food allergy awareness procedures,” read HB1102 in 2020.

The statute would require that restaurants have an employee on staff who’s trained and certified in food allergies. It would also require restaurants to post notices, shown clearly, that say it’s up to the customer to inform an establishment about a particular allergy.

On March 11, Jennifer’s bill finally reached the House floor. She had received on-the-job training, preparing her for the road ahead, teaching her that she’d have to navigate through more meetings than the UN, and adjust to the ping-pong action of bills being volleyed back and forth, chamber to chamber.

COVID ruined everything, and that’s when Rachel spoke to Jennifer, recharging her batteries.

Soon, once Jennifer announced the public hearing had been rescheduled to Feb. 16, encouragement came from every direction, people whom Jennifer said were also dealing with the daily fear caused by food allergies.

She perked up, returning to her laser-sharp focus.

“So many people are dealing with this issue,” Jennifer told me. “This is definitely more fresh in my head now.”

Jennifer and her supporters can interact with lawmakers during Tuesday’s meeting, hoping to articulate definitive statements, warning about the potential danger of food allergies.

Of course, she thought she’d be further along in this bureaucratic black hole. Jennifer had hoped that the governor would sign Rachel’s Law on May 7, 2020, which would have been Rachel’s 23rd birthday.

Now, she fears she and her allies will have to repeat their entire initial presentation, waiting for House representatives to analyze wording before voting again.

It’s red tape on steroids.

That’s okay. Jennifer’s batteries are recharged. She’s got the grit of, well, of Rachel.

“Our days have purpose, now that a public hearing has been set,” Jennifer said. “Our cause is being rekindled. Now we have to exhaust them with so much testimony that they just get tired of us.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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