It’s being called the first safe pantry in the nation for children with food allergies and Celiac disease. The Food Equality Initiative (FEI) was started by Emily Brown in who together with Amy Goode worked to open a food pantry to serve low income people with food allergies. The idea for a pantry hit close to home for Brown who suddenly had a need.
“My work began with my own family in 2014,” Brown said. “My oldest daughter was diagnosed with multiple food allergies at age one and our first trip to the grocery store we suffered sticker shock over the price of ‘safe foods’.”
Safe foods can cost two to four times more than food with allergens and gluten. “We cut back on spending and tried to make it work,” Brown added. “We enrolled in community assistance programs only to discover there were little to no safe foods available.” Emily recognized that the foods she needed for her daughter were not accessible through federal nutrition programs or community food pantries. Together with the Community Assistance Council, Emily worked to create a safe food pantry to meet community needs now and through advocacy she hopes to influence policy to help families in the future.
“Food allergy rates are up to eight percent of the general population,” said Dr. Selina Gierer, pediatric and adult allergist with The University of Kansas Health System and FEI Medical Advisory Board member. “The rate is actually higher in children and these allergies are often continuing into adulthood which is something we didn’t see fifty years ago.”
Dr. Gierer said the need is real and growing. In the Kansas City area alone it is estimated there are around 8, 000 people who would qualify for the Safe Food Pantry. It takes a doctor’s prescription and Dr. Gierer is happy to write one for those in need. A prescription or doctor’s diagnosis is required to gain entry into the Safe Food Pantry. Brown and Dr. Gierer point out that celiac disease and other food allergies are often a chronic condition making the need among these affected families continuous. The University of Kansas Hospital works with the FEI Safe Food Pantry and community to raise awareness about this resource. To receive help or donate, log onto FEI at www.foodequalityinitiative.org.
In the video, Dr. Selina Gierer explains celiac disease and talks more about how food allergies have changed over the years. Emily Brown shares more insight into the food pantry, where and how she gets her safe foods as well as details of how the public can volunteer and support the FEI Safe Food Pantry that currently has locations in KCMO and KCK.