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Food Banks Face Challenges in Meeting Gluten-free Needs

Celiac.com 11/18/2014 - A recent report from NPR highlighted the challenges for people with celiac disease who turn to local food banks for relief.

Many food pantries simply do not stock dedicated gluten-free items for celiac sufferers. Those that do try to meet the needs of their gluten-free clients face daunting challenges.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons--US Navy; Greg VojtkoSome basic math can help to put the problem into perspective. About one-percent of Americans, or about 3.5 million people suffer from celiac disease. Assuming these folks use food banks at the same rate as other Americans, then, at any given time, one in seven, or about 500,000 of them will rely on food banks for nourishment.

Now, a number of food pantries are making efforts to collect, sort and distribute gluten-free items for people with celiac disease. However, their challenge is compounded by the fact that people with celiac disease are not solely concentrated in cities, where food banks may be more equipped to stock specialty gluten-free foods.

Also, those larger pantries that are located in big cities must, by definition, serve larger numbers of people with celiac disease.

For example, if we apply the numbers to the Phoenix metro area, with a population of 4.3 million people, about 600,000 people would require food pantry assistance at any given time. That would mean that pantries like the Foothills Food Bank would need to stock food for about 6,000 people with celiac disease on any given day.

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To their credit, Foothills Food Bank in Phoenix prioritizes donated gluten-free items for people with celiac disease. But keeping enough food on their shelves is a constant challenge, and keeping specialty items, such as gluten-free food requires considerable effort.

So, while relief agencies like Food Bank of WNY in Buffalo, NY, try to educate soup kitchens and pantries about the importance of providing gluten-free items, they face an uphill battle that goes beyond their normal challenges of simply providing food.

One bright spot for gluten-free eaters in need of assistance is Pierce’s Pantry in Massachusetts, which has dedicated a page on its website to helping people nationwide to find emergency gluten-free food.

With these stark realities facing both food banks and celiac sufferers in need of food assistance, please consider reaching out to your local food bank to make a donation of gluten-free food, especially during the holiday season.

Here’s a link to Pierce’s Pantry Gluten-free Food Resource Page.

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3 Responses:

 
Amanda
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said this on
18 Nov 2014 10:44:12 AM PDT
When I inquired about this particular issue a few years ago at our local food bank I was met with blank stares and a lack of knowledge. I do not know what the status is today, so I definitely try to keep a good emergency supply of non-perishables around for a time where a food bank might be a necessity for me. When I can, I donate gluten free items to the collection bins so they have something for someone.

 
L. Pickett
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said this on
24 Nov 2014 1:06:17 PM PDT
During hurricane Sandy here in the Jersey Shore there were absolutely no resources for packaged GF foods regardless of efforts of those of us celiacs trying to help. Manufacturers were more than willing to donate but county food bank warehouses wouldn't even let us package separate boxes for those in need. The response was" let those affected take what is given to them and figure it out". Believe it or not , this happened. I'm in Monmouth/Ocean county and couldn't get things moving regardless of the more than generous GF manufacturers. However Long Island was able to work with their food banks. How sad.

 
Linda

said this on
24 Nov 2014 1:22:23 PM PDT
In New York State a state senator made a request and legislation was passed that food bank's had to provide kosher food. I wrote and said that this being the case that food bank's should also be required to provide gluten free options. I did not ever receive a reply.




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So just to clarify had not consumed any gluten for about 4 days before testing. I was assured by my allergist that it wouldn't affect the test. But what was alarming was that she retested my food allergies (my most recent reaction was two weeks ago) and every food allergy I have came back negative. I don't understand how that is possible. These food allergies developed when I was 20 and I am almost 24 now.

Thanks! You too! I have learned from this experience to take charge of my own health. It's nice at least that we can try the gluten-free treatment without a firm diagnosis or a doctor confirming the disease. I've also felt some of the gluten withdrawal symptoms, and my stomach pain ebbs and flows, but I'm determined to stick with the gluten-free diet to see what a difference it makes. Gemini, thank you! This was really validating and useful for me to hear. I've felt so confused through this process and just want some answers. If the biopsy results do come back negative, I'm going to follow your advice and do the gluten-free diet with repeat blood testing after a while. If they come back positive, well, then I'll have my answer. I'm supposed to get them back next week.

I have celiac and eosinaphalic esophagitis. I was put on a steroid inhaler recently. I use it like an inhaler but swallow the air instead of breathing it in. You may want to look into EOE and it's relationship to celiac. Just a thought. My swallowing and celiac seem to be related.

You have eat gluten every single day until after testing. And the celiac blood test is supposed to be done as well.

If I was the big guy, there's no way I would have to wait 3 and a half weeks for a test lol. My GI doc never recommended the antibody test. He said doing it with the scope was the only sure way to know. Does anybody know if I should eat a little gluten the day before my test to see if I will get an accurate enough test? Or will it not matter, once the damage is done it's done?