Celiac.com 10/10/2011 - With the economy on the rocks and the holiday season upon us, many food banks are struggling to keep gluten-free items on their shelves.
Since more and more families are relying on food banks for assistance, that means more and more people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance may not be getting the food they need.
Responding to this situation last year, Seattle resident Lisa Garza, who runs the blog Gluten Free Foodies, launched a "Gluten-Free Food Drive Challenge" to collect gluten-free donations for area food banks. The ongoing campaign has attracted support from Bob's Red Mill and Zing Bar.
Last May, Garza urged the Seattle Food Committee, a coalition of 27 local food banks, to create dedicated space in their pantries for gluten-free foods. Committee member Joe Gruber, director of the University District Food Bank, says Garza's suggestion "made us more mindful," but doesn't foresee instituting it anytime soon. In fact, none of the city's food banks has yet found room for a gluten-free section: According to Gruber, cost and space limitations have severely hampered their abilities to regularly stock gluten-free food.
"To offer any form of carved-out space is a challenge," says Gruber, whose 800-square-foot food bank distributes about 45,000 pounds of food per week. "We try to identify gluten-free goods, but they will still end up with other pastas, grains, and cereals."
Gruber says the University District Food Bank depends on targeted programs like Garza's to support the wide variety of diets among its customers.
Seattle Food Committee staffer Alison Miller says most food banks don't have too much gluten-free food to sort. High prices for gluten-free goods means that food-banks rarely have funds to buy and stock gluten-free items. Than means banks rely on donations for to keep gluten-free food on their shelves. That means that offerings can be slim, and disappear quickly.
Still Garza presses on. "I continue to ask for donations to remind people that the need is greater and greater," she says, adding that "I don't want people to suffer the way I suffered."
Please consider making a donation of gluten-free food to your local food bank.