Following a strict gluten-free diet can be complicated. Dissecting labels and researching ingredients is no small task. However, these complications are greatly magnified when an individual or family also faces financial constraints.
And, as we all know, eating gluten free isn’t cheap. Gluten-free bread, pasta, flour, crackers, etc. can cost double or more than traditional products. Alternatively, following a diet that consists mainly of produce and protein such as meat, eggs, beans, fruits and vegetables can be equally hard on the pocketbook.
Research has shown that the hardships of coming to terms with a completely new way of eating can be at least somewhat mitigated by finding products that are familiar and taste good. And conversely, lack of access to such foods can do the opposite. So what are newly diagnosed people to do if they can’t afford their diagnosis?
The National Celiac Association (NCA) is here to help. In 2016 they took over Pierce’s Pantry in Massachusetts, renaming it The Gluten-Free Food Bank. They work with 12 food pantries across the state to distribute food to people who are struggling to afford their gluten-free diets. They take donations of food for distribution, and financial donations are used to offset operational costs such as storage.
The Gluten-Free Food Bank also advocates for food assistance and meal provision. They recently worked with the National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging to provide two webinars on the importance of offering gluten-food options for seniors. Many in the audience were providers such as Meals on Wheels, very few of which currently offer GF meals. This increases food insecurity and social isolation among an already vulnerable population.
In 2019, the Gluten-Free Food Bank helped 300 people in Massachusetts. The need, however, far exceeds their resources. We do our part by donating leftover samples from our expos to the food bank, and by donating gluten-free food to our own town’s food pantry. For donation guidelines and to get involved, visit https://nationalceliac.org/the-gluten-free-food-bank/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.