Celiac.com 02/11/2016 - Kansas is wheat country, and like the rest of America, Kansans are generally not gluten-free. That means the food in their charity food pantries are not usually gluten-free.

Photo: FoodPantries.orgThat means that, however hard it might be to maintain a gluten-free diet in Kansas, or anywhere else in America, it's that much harder to maintain a gluten-free diet if you're poor, or simply can't afford the prices.

However, things have gotten a bit easier in Kansas recently, where the efforts of two dedicated mothers of children with food allergies have led to the first free food pantry in the nation dedicated to food for people with food allergies.

After meeting at a local support group and realizing their common problems, Amy Goode and Emily Brown joined forces to meet their challenges in finding and affording specialty foods required for their kids' diets. Both women faced high food bills for staple foods needed for their kids' food sensitivities.

Brown's older daughter, for example, suffered multiple food allergies, and could only tolerate hemp milk, which is priced at $15 a gallon, and is not covered by the government's WIC program. Both women, Brown said, were "struggling to pay for our alternative milks, and it was just overwhelming."

Allergy-friendly and gluten-free foods typically cost two to four times more than comparable regular items. In both cases, the women were struggling to keep their kids healthy, as the alternative is often lines and suffering in the kids. Goode said, " I think people miss that aspect of it. It's not just about the food, but it's about the health."

Their efforts to offer an alternative have resulted in the launch of the ReNewed Health Free Food Pantry in Overland Park, located in the New Haven Seventh Day Adventist Church at 8714 Antioch Road.

The church dedicated space for the pantry just across the hall from a regular food pantry stocked with non-gluten-free products.

ReNewed Health offers only options for those with food allergies along with standard nutrient-dense foods, such as beans. Much of the food is donated by manufacturers, stores and a gluten-free bakery, and all that's needed to use the pantry is a doctor's note or lab results showing you or your child has a medical need for the foods.

The pantry is open on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Kudos to these Kansas moms for turning their challenge into a success for other people facing the same problem. And kudos to starting America's first free food pantry for people with food allergies and celiac disease.


Celiac.com welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).