America’s First Food-allergy Friendly Food Pantry

I’ve always wondered if I’d be able to survive if I wasn’t financially able to buy my own food. My volleyball team in college even joked that if I was a peasant in the Middle Ages I’d be screwed: I couldn’t beg, milk a cow on a farm, eat bread or cheese or nuts; I wasn’t strong or big enough to be a knight or defend myself; and I’d probably be sacrificed during a drought. (I’m sure something in there is historically inaccurate. None of us was a history major.)

All joking aside, in today’s world this is a harsh reality for families and people with food allergies who don’t have the means to purchase their groceries. Even if they have the means to buy the cheaper off-brand products, many can’t afford to shop at stores like Whole Foods or in the expensive “health food” and “gluten-free” aisle at the local store, which is often where you’ll find the nut-free cookies and gluten-free pancake mix.

That was the case for a family featured in a recent news article by NBC’s King5 Western Washington’s news about a new food-allergy-friendly food pantry.

“While under normal circumstances the Demoures and families like them wouldn’t need help from a food pantry, but the rising costs of allergen-free foods means they have few other options.”

Food Equality Initiative (FEI) is creating opportunities for low income families with food allergies and Celiac disease. Enter ReNewed Health, America’s first allergy-friendly food pantry located in Overland Park, Kansas. In just a year, it has distributed more than 12,350 pounds of allergy-friendly food.

As I read this article, one thing that came to mind was – in addition to the limited resources these people have – their limited time. I’m imagining a single mom who’s working two jobs to feed her and her three children, and I’m comparing how long it takes me, someone who’s privileged with time, money, and only one mouth to feed, to find milk-free bread at the grocery store to how long it would take this woman. She needs to carefully read each ingredient, because not all brands bold the common food allergens at the end of an ingredient list, and then she needs to check to see if there’s no disclaimer saying the product was manufactured in a facility with milk, all while keeping an eye on her children and her grocery cart.

Now I’d like to make one thing clear: These are people with real dietary restrictions who can’t afford the food they are able to physically eat. This isn’t a matter involving recent-graduate hipsters who can’t afford to keep up their vegan diets.

So I salute FEI and their efforts to help the food allergy community and promote a little more peace and love in our country.

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