Gluten-Free, Allergy-Free Food Bank

The Food Equality Initiative: Helping those in Poverty with Food Allergies & Celiac Disease

Picture this: you don’t have enough money to purchase food, something that is vital to keep you alive. You have to rely on government assistance, however as a result of your food allergies you’re unable to eat any of the food given to you through the program.

While you are thankful for the support, you continue to go hungry in fear of eating something that will make you extremely sick, or worst case scenario could lead to your death. For many living in poverty, this is their reality. The majority of the food staples provided through the WIC federal nutrition plan lack options for those with allergy-friendly choices, leaving those with serious food allergies with only a few items they can safely eat.

Emily Brown knows about this firsthand. She writes in Allergic Living Magazine:

It was a beautiful spring day in 2014. I sat in my car and looked at the grocery sack on the seat next to me. I had just visited a food pantry for the first time, and while I was grateful for the contents of the bag (a  jar of salsa and two potatoes), I was frustrated with the lack of safe food to help feed my food-allergic family.

Tears rolled down my face as I thought of the conversation I’d just had with the pantry manager. When I asked about gluten-free and allergy-friendly options, she responded, “we don’t have any, but you were able to get something, right?”

I thanked her as I tried to keep it together. After spending 90 minutes waiting for food assistance with my infant daughter, I watched as client after client left with carts full of food. I was heartbroken to discover that hunger and food allergies just don’t mix.

Like many families during tough times, we were in need of assistance, but we could not use many of the staples provided through the federal nutrition program called Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) because of its lack of allergy-friendly choices. Faced with food pantries that were ill-prepared to serve clients with special diets, and knowing my family was not alone, I became desperate; change simply had to come.

Emily Brown, second from the right, is co-founder and CEO of the Food equality Initiative. From left, Amy Goode is co-found and CFO; Kwesi Lisso is medical liaison; and Gail Mitchell-Smith is events coordinator.

Emily took action into her own hands and founded The Food Equality Initiative in partnership with Amy Goode, a mother of a child with multiple food allergies who also believed that safe and healthy food should be available to anyone. The Food Equality Initiative is a non-profit dedicated to ending hunger and improving the health of low-income individuals living with food allergies and celiac disease.

Their first order of business? The creation of an allergy-friendly and gluten-free food pantry in Overland Park, Kansas which is stocked with about 100 products, including gluten-free pastas, breads, flours and mixes, non-dairy milks, peanut butter alternatives, egg replacements, and fresh fruit and veggies.

Gluten-Free, Allergy-Free Food Bank for those in poverty

Typically recipients of food from pantries receive three-days worth of food, however at The Food Equality Initiative pantry, clients receive a month’s worth of food based on their dietary needs or restrictions. In order to be eligible for the program, clients must supply a doctor’s note or lab results confirming a diagnosis of food allergies or celiac disease, in addition to documentation of financial need.

In the first six weeks the pantry was open, they served 53 clients and distributed over 1,750 pounds of food. The Food Equality Initiative is also now collaborating with Feeding America, in addition to a local food bank to eliminate challenges food banks and pantries face with food allergies on the rise.

Food Equality Initiative Amazon Smile Program

After hearing about FEI, I felt inspired to share information about the organization with my readers as it’s difficult to imagine having access to safe food, and I admire Emily and Amy for starting such an amazing non-profit.

Want to help? Shop on Amazon? Click here and immediately have 0.5% of your Amazon-eligible purchases donated directly to FEI. Want to donate the old fashion way? Click hereIn the Overland Park, Kansas area? They’re always looking for volunteers.

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