Food Insecurity and Allergies: Spotlight on Member S.A.F.E. Food Pantry
Guest Blog by Tiffany Holtzman, Founder and Board President, S.A.F.E. Food Pantry, Member of Maryland Nonprofits
Each month, Maryland Nonprofits selects a nonprofit member to help raise awareness with a guest blog. Thank you to S.A.F.E. Food Pantry for donating their time to share today’s blog.
No community is immune to hunger, although it is not always a visible problem. Food insecurity means that people, at times, do not have access to the food they need to thrive and be healthy. It often comes down to making tough choices, like eating or paying the rent. Throughout the state of Maryland, over 750,0000 people are food insecure. Even in Howard County, one of the richest counties in the nation, over 23,000 people do not have enough to eat.
However, it is the next generation that suffers the most from food insecurity. Over 250,000 children in Maryland do not get the food that they need. Even in Howard County, almost half of the food insecure population consists of children. These children might not have food other than what they eat at school.
Food pantries help clients in their communities obtain the food they need. Now, imagine that in addition to suffering with food insecurity, you have a dietary condition that requires special food. Food allergies are a way of life for 15 million Americans. Over 90% of the allergic reactions come from the Top 8 allergens – milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. However, the Top 8 allergens are not the only culprits of food allergies; any food item can become a matter of life or death for an individual.
Then, there are about 3 million Americans who have celiac disease and 18 million with gluten sensitivity. These individuals must avoid gluten-containing food like wheat, barley, and rye. A gluten free diet is the only solution for these conditions.
Unfortunately, foods that are gluten free and allergy friendly are 2-4 times more expensive than the typical grocery items. Plus, safe food can be incredibly difficult or non-existent to find on the shelves at the local food pantries.
Because of these issues, a new nonprofit emerged – the S.A.F.E. – Supplying Allergy Friendly and Emergency – Food Pantry located in Howard County. We have made it our mission to provide gluten free and allergy friendly food to those in need. Until we open our first location, we are focusing on awareness and seeking community partners to fulfill our mission.
If you know of someone in need of our services or would like to learn more about the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry, please visit our website at www.safefoodpantry.org or call us at 443-741-1060.
** Statistics provided by Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).