Food Allergies and Hunger
Recently, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank requested the following non-perishable items to be donated to their distribution sites:
Peanut butter Whole wheat pasta Canned fruits and vegetables Dried fruit
Canned and dried beans Canned chili, soups and stews Extra virgin olive oil
Boxed macaroni and cheese Cheese cracker packages Jams and jellies
Tuna Brown rice
But imagine if you or your family were allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, eggs, soy and/or sesame. Some of the above items would obviously be a problem, (i.e., peanut butter, whole wheat pasta, macaroni and cheese, cheese crackers) while others would have allergens listed in the ingredients but may not be as obvious. It only takes 5 particles per million of a food protein to come into contact with the allergic person to cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis and can occur with a variety of foods, not just peanuts and tree nuts.
As a mother of two children with multiple food allergies, as well as a Certified AllerCoach(TM), I have often stopped by food pantries and asked what is available for people that come to seek assistance but have food allergies, food intolerances, or an auto-immune disorder like celiac disease. In addition to the above mentioned items, I would like to suggest some options of non-perishable foods to donate to your local food pantry:
Peanut butter replacements: Sunflower seed butter, soy butter (Soy), almond butter (Tree nut), cashew butter (Tree nut).
Egg replacements: One-quarter cup of unsweetened applesauce with one-half teaspoon baking powder OR two tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of oil (vegetable or corn oil work best) and two teaspoons of baking powder.
Milk replacements: There are a variety of beverages that come in boxes that only require refrigeration when opened. Rice milk, almond milk (Tree nut), cashew milk (Tree nut), soy milk (Soy). Canned coconut milk (Tree nut) works well in soups and sauces and can be used to make whipped cream for desserts.
Wheat replacements: Wheat-free grains, such as rice, corn, millet, potato, tapioca and quinoa are available and can be substituted cup per cup for wheat flour. One recipe for making your own wheat-free flour is to mix four cups of superfine brown rice flour, one and one-third cups of potato starch (not flour) and two-thirds of tapioca flour (sometimes called tapioca starch). Some additional gluten-free options are chickpea flour, amaranth flour, almond flour (Tree nut), buckwheat flour.
Breakfast cereals: Consider boxes that do not contain tree nuts, peanuts or sesame. For those with a wheat allergy, or with gluten sensitivity, consider cereals that are gluten- free (GF). Wheat is not the only source for gluten, so the box must say gluten-free.
Crackers: Try wheat-free options like rice cakes and gluten-free crackers made with rice, oats, legumes and nuts (Tree nuts).
Pastas: Those following a wheat-free diet might have the option of eating pasta made with rice, corn, quinoa, lentils and legumes. Some pastas do contain eggs (Egg).
Sesame: Even though the FDA does not list sesame as one of the main (8) allergens, the allergy is growing in numbers and IS listed as a main allergen in Canada and the European Union. Sesame might not be visible (on a bun, cracker, or bread), but sesame flour can be in baked goods, crackers and cereals. You must check the entire ingredients list.