We’ve all heard of Oprah’s Big Give show from a few years ago. I am suggesting during this Celiac Disease Awareness Month to do a “Gluten Free Give Back”, as we take time to give back to this disease that has changed our lives so significantly.

During this month I plan to do occasional postings on how we can give back to the gluten free community.  This post is looking at food banks.

We all are likely VERY possessive of our gluten free food– it’s so expensive why would we just GIVE it to someone? I’ll be honest, that is one of my initial reactions, but it turns out in this bad economy there is a need for gluten-free food at your local food bank.

Needing Gluten Free Food at the Food Bank

Last week I set out to learn more about the need in my own community in Minnesota. I talked with Lisa Aune of Second Harvest Heartland and she said,

“We do occasionally receive requests from some of our food shelf partners about the availability of gluten free food for clients of theirs.” Can you imagine being caught in a place where you need to use the food shelf and you can’t even find food options that you can eat?

The gluten-free need has been noticed elsewhere too.  In Massachusetts Pierce’s Pantry is a food shelf specifically for gluten free needs. You can find out how to donate or receive food at this helpful website.

Back in 2009 in Loveland, Colorado, they opened the country’s first gluten free food bank at the House of Neighborly Services. Organizer Dee Valdez of  GlutenFreeDee.com told Tricia Thompson of GlutenFreeDietitian.com what prompted her to take action.

“I remember talking to a mother who had a sick 7 year old who had Celiac Disease. The exasperated mom said she had to choose between feeding her whole family or just feeding her sick daughter the very expensive gluten free food she could find. The distraught mother said, referring to her celiac daughter, “She’s just going to have to live with diarrhea.” — Dee Valdez, Gluten Free Food Bank Organizer and Gluten Free Advocate. Interview on www.glutenfreedietitian.com

That really is a heartbreaking story, but it lead to fabulous work by Valdez.  She also played a role in the new Gluten Free Food Pantry for low-income celiacs in Pittsburgh.  The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness profiled the food bank opening on its website recently.  It just opened this spring.

How Can You Get Active?

So what if there is nothing like any of the aforementioned food banks in your area?  Teri Gruss had some ideas in her about.com article. She recommends talking to your local food shelf and asking them to put a call out for gluten-free donations.  But you could also organize a food drive in your community or with your support group.

Back in Minnesota with my contact at Second Harvest Heartland, she supported the idea of donating gluten-free food,

“…I would suggest that you ask your readers to make those donations to their local food shelf. That way they are keeping the donations in their own community, and I’m sure the food shelves would be thrilled to get it.”  Lisa Aune of Second Harvest Heartland

Nadine Grzeskowiak, RN CEN of GlutenFreeRN.com had a great suggestion, to donate gluten free food to the Stamp Out Hunger food drive that happens on May 14th.  She says, “…put non-perishable GLUTEN FREE food in a bag in your mailbox and your local mail carrier will pick it up and take it to the local food banks.”

I will be donating gluten free food to my area food bank soon and I will let you know how it goes!

As always, Celiac.com welcomes your comments (see below).