Meet Dilip Chopra
Food Allergy Action Hero
Our featured Food Allergy Action Hero is Dilip Chopra. Dilip is the co-founder of AllerSchool and Gipsee. AllerSchool is an end-to-end Food Allergy & Nutrition Management System for K-12 Schools. Gipsee is an allergen management for solution for restaurants
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: Tell us about how you and your partner came up with the idea of Gipsee and AllerSchool?
DILIP CHOPRA: We have food allergies in the family and the idea came as a result of frustration stemming from not being able to get answers about what was in the food from restaurants and schools alike. Most restaurants or their staffs do not completely understand the significance of food allergies and the consequences of consuming food that may have ingredients that one can be allergic to. We found ourselves being referred to the restaurant website very frequently. What we noticed was that while some of restaurants did have allergen or ingredient info listed on their websites, the info was not easy to read or interpret at the time of ordering. We saw an opportunity to leverage technology to bring relevant information to people with food allergies and restrictions, so they can enjoy eating out like everyone else. So, I and my partner, Atul, who is a technology expert decided to team up to build solutions such as Gipsee and AllerSchool.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: What are the features of AllerSchool that can benefit parents?
DILIP CHOPRA: The AllerSchool solution for schools helps parents of kids with food allergies/ restrictions get involved in the food planning effort with the school. It promotes inclusiveness for the students. Parents log in with a secured password into the AllerSchool Parent module and the system immediately recognizes them, their children and their respective food allergies/restrictions. It filters out menu items from available meal options that may be safe for their child to consume from the schools menus. The parent then can send a parent-approved meal order, in advance directly to the school cafeteria for that day, that week or even for the entire month. This allows the parent to control what their child can or cannot eat at the school cafeteria. It adds an additional layer of safety for the parents. One important aspect about AllerSchool is that the parent can select from hundreds of combinations of foods that they may want their kids to avoid and, they are not limited to just the major 8 allergens. Parents can also select meal options that do not contain ingredients that may not necessarily be considered allergens, like no pork beef or, vegetarian options in addition to food allergens.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: Tell us about your success in schools….any feedback from parents?
DILIP CHOPRA: All the feedback we have received is of a positive nature. Parents love the ability of the system filtering out allergens at the ingredient level so they don’t have to spend time calling the school staff to find out which foods may be safe to eat each day of the week. It also creates time and cost-savings for school staff by not having to answer as many phone calls. One parent’s comment that comes to mind is that the system created a feeling of “normalcy” for their child because now their child could stand in the cafeteria line with the rest of the kids and receive his pre-ordered meal instead of being treated as “different”. Many parents also like the convenience of ordering and planning meals a week or month in advance so they don’t have to be worried about available meal options at the school every day.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: How do you feel AllerSchool can benefit college and University dining services?
DILIP CHOPRA: The issues of food ingredient-identification are the same, whether they are at a k12 school, college, or university. Universities are increasingly trying to accommodate the needs of students with food allergies but I see a lot of that effort is being focused on providing gluten-free or major 8 allergen options. Although I applaud such efforts, the reality is that people are allergic to combinations of foods not just categories such as gluten-free, dairy-free etc. AllerSchool provides a practical solution by allowing a college student to select any combination of foods to be avoided and instantly view menu options of available foods. Plus, the universities can save a lot of time and effort that is currently spent on identifying foods by major 8 categories. AllerSchool technology makes this possible instantly. Where they can focus in my opinion, is on training their staff into cooking contamination-free. The combination of accurate ingredient-identification with AllerSchool technology and, thorough staff-training, in my opinion, is the winning formula for ensuring food safety.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: On the restaurant side what restaurants are now using Gipsee?
DILIP CHOPRA: On the restaurant side we have several large chains that we are currently working with that are in various stages of development. Overall, if everything goes as planned we expect close to 3,000 locations where the allergen-identification technology would be in use in the next few months. This includes a few sit-down casual dining places plus some international locations.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: You also have an app for Gipsee to be used by diners to learn about the allergens in the menus at those restaurants who use your product. How does it work?
DILIP CHOPRA: We build for our restaurant clients several technology avenues that their diners may use to access customized allergy menus. This includes information on the restaurant’s web site; on customer’s mobile phones accessible with QR code scans; by integration with the restaurants mobile ordering platforms; on the restaurant’s own customized phone apps; and, with Wi-Fi enabled tablets. One of my favorites is accessing allergy information on smart-phones using QR codes that are strategically placed within the restaurant premises. The QR codes can be placed on menus, at entrances or, at the start of ordering lines. The allergy-sensitive customer simply scans the QR code and views their available meal options at the restaurant without holding the line or having the need to ask a lot of questions from the staff.