Money raised at the art show's community night on 9 July will go towards the world-first study, which aims to identify ways to prevent the development of food allergy in infants. The Ilhan Food Allergy Foundation has offered to match funds raised up to $50,000.

Australia currently has the world's highest rates of food allergy, with previous research at MCRI identifying timing of allergen exposure in early life, skin moisture and vitamin levels as factors that might be important in the development of the condition. The Vitality Study aims to recruit more than 3000 breastfed babies aged six to eight weeks from across Melbourne over the next three years.

MCRI dietician and PhD candidate Vicki McWilliam, who will be a guest speaker on the night, said the study was open to infants who will be primarily breastfed for their first six months of life.

"Australia is a in a unique position to run this study because of our good breastfeeding rates and our unenviable title as the food allergy capital of the world," Ms McWilliam said.

Researchers visit the babies at two, six and 12 months, with infants receiving a free allergy test at the Royal Children's Hospital end of the study period. Infants are given a vitamin or placebo drop each day until age one.

Ms McWilliam said despite an increase in food allergy in recent years, the cause remained unknown.

"This study aims to see the relationship between food allergy, vitamin status, timing of allergen exposure and immune function in infants," she said.

Lia Duke's son Spencer joined the study at six weeks despite no family history of allergy. The mother of two said her family decided to take part as a simple way to help researchers learn about food allergy and said the study had proven reassuring and informative.

When Spencer developed skin reactions after eating peanut and coconut at home, Spencer underwent allergy testing with Vitality, including an oral food challenge, which revealed no serious problems. He is able to now safely eat these foods at home.

"I was worried about anaphylaxis, but it turned out that it was a minor skin reaction. With Spencer about to go into childcare, it was very reassuring information to have," Lia said. "I would definitely recommend families to consider taking part."

President of the Rotary Club of Camberwell Patrick Docherty said his group had contributed millions of dollars to the local community in its 60 years.

"We've had a strong relationship with MCRI research Professor Katie Allen over many years and we see the Vitality Study as one that can change people's lives," Mr Docherty said. "At Camberwell Rotary we firmly believe we can make a difference and bring hope of a better life for our communities."

The Rotary Club of Camberwell Art Show community night will be held at Swinburne University Advanced Technology Centre on Monday 9 July from 6pm. Bookings can be made at

Now in its 53rd year, the 10-day show has established itself as one of Australia's leading art events for established and emerging artists.

The Vitality Study is currently recruiting participants and is open to mothers with infants aged six-eight weeks. Please visit for more information.