I write today with a hopeful heart but also realize that there is much work to be done for people living with both food insecurity and food intolerance. Last week on our east coast #EndHungerPain tour I met up with incredible helpers.
A person’s most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help others. -www.quotesgate.com
Just about 7 weeks ago, I felt a strong tug to help people living with food insecurity AND food intolerance. The pandemic has placed a huge financial deficit in many more households–and I couldn’t imagine how people with special diet needs were coping. Most foods donated to food pantries contain gluten and FODMAP carbohydrates (pasta, bread, beans to name a few). How can one thrive nutritionally if the food available is potentially toxic or intolerable to their bodies?
Living in a pandemic without this extra stress –has been a lot. Facing this adversity and uncertainty while malnourished, in the land of plenty–is not right.
To donate to organizations making a difference in food insecurity and food intolerance, click here.
Poverty is the biggest predictor of food insecurity. Food insecurity increases risk of diet sensitive diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Food insecurity can lead to weight gain. Recent data shows women are at greater risk of food insecurity –and their diets suffer–lacking adequate fiber, protein, b-vitamins, and greater amounts of simple sugars and carbs. People facing food insecurity, particularly women, may be over-fed from a calorie perspective–but undernourished. (1 ) Inexpensive, ultra-processed foods lack nutrition but are often dense in calories. When you are working 3 jobs to make ends meet–eating fast foods, prepared and ready to eat, may be the only option. Not everyone has access to big grocery stores and many lack the necessities to cook foods–with no oven and limited cookware.
Up to 20% of people experience food intolerance. (2). Feeding America projects that 42 million people (1 in 8), including 13 million children (1 in 6), may experience food insecurity in 2021, this is actually an improved statistic from the original projection that 1 in 4 households would be impacted by food insecurity. (3)
My intention for the #EndHungerPain initiative was to raise awareness of the intersection of food insecurity and food intolerance, raise money via industry sponsorship to help agencies working in this space, and to bring special foods to agencies to help fill this gap. I also wanted to interview as many people working in the food insecurity space on our trip so that I could tap into their experience and collectively come up with some initial solutions to help more food intolerant folks.
I could not have done this work without my son, Brennan and husband Russ who were my support system, video team, drivers and my travel companions for this initiative. And a BIG shoutout goes to my 2 initial sponsors–Fody Food co and Schar Gluten Free who jumped on board with this initiative right away. We had 8 companies donate food or funding to the #EndHungerPain initiative-Fody food co, Schar Gluten Free, Orgain, 88 Acres, Barilla, Nestle, Cabot Creamery! Modify Health heard of our tour, contacted me–and also jumped in with a financial donation as well–and we are so grateful for their interest and help! This was an impressive feat for an idea that hit me about 7 weeks prior to hitting the road.
Here is a very brief recap of my interactions and what we accomplished:
We collected food for the tour–most was delivered to my home–but being local to 88 Acres–we stopped by to pick up their gluten free, allergy-friendly bars–that are also made with low FODMAP ingredients!
Our first food pantry visit was at Project Just Because in Hopkinton, MA. There we met with pantry president, Cherylann Walsh and Carla Carter from the National Celiac Association.
Project Just Because provides year round gluten free foods to all residents of Massachusetts. Cherylann, says, “we are here everyday and happy to help.” 🙂
To donate to Project Just Because, click here.
While at Project Just Because, we were grateful to present a check to Carla Carter, Director of Outreach and Programming from the National Celiac Association for the Feeding Gluten free program. This donation came in via sponsorship of the #EndHungerPain initiative from Schar Gluten Free. Schar has a variety of gluten free foods as well as an assortment of low FODMAP certified foods too.
The Feeding Gluten Free program of the National Celiac Association aims to connect gluten free companies to food pantries across the US. They have been a huge support to those with food insecurity and gluten intolerance–but need more funds to do more. To donate to their program, click here.
Next stop was Stamford, Connecticut. This involved visiting with a multitude of folks working to help people living with food insecurity and more. When we arrived in Stamford the local news was awaiting our visit. So…no rest for the weary…I went straight into interview mode.
Laney Lloyd, a volunteer extraordinaire for Food Rescue was instrumental in getting my visit together in Stamford, CT that involved a visit with Nancy Coughlin, CEO at Person to Person. Person-to-Person is an organization that helps people in times of need, whether in the form of financial assistance, food and clothing, or household necessities.
I also met with John Gutman, Executive Director at the New Covenant Center which provides a soup kitchen, pantry and more, and Silver Source’s Executive Director, Kathleen Bordelon. Sliver Source is an agency that helps elders in need.
Here John Gutman shows me the food pantry at the New Covenant Center. The term FODMAP was new to his group–as was the case for many places we visited.
I met up with many Food Rescue volunteers in Stamford. Food Rescue has an incredible amount of volunteers and excellent software that connects volunteers to food ready to be rescued and then dropped off at social service agencies working to feed the food insecure. Their mission has a dual purpose–by rescuing food they can feed more people AND there is less food waste. Food waste is a problem –as food in landfills creates an abundance of methane gas production, which is not good for our planet.
Here is some of the team I met from Food Rescue-left to right, Laney Lloyd, volunteer Food Rescue, Danielle Blaine, Food Rescue Fairfield County Site Director, Melissa Spiesman, National Site Director for Food Rescue US and Haley Schulman, Associate at Fairfield County Food Rescue.
After our busy visit in Stamford, we took to the road and headed to Kingston, Pennsylvania to visit with my colleague, dietitian, Clancy Harrison, the president of Al Beech West Side food pantry as well as the founder of the Food Dignity project.
I was thrilled to work with Clancy on increasing their ability to work with folks with food intolerance–and provide her with a check from Fody Food co. via the #EndHungerPain initiative. Barilla provided a boatload of gluten free products at this pantry and we matched the pasta with FODY foods low FODMAP certified pasta sauce.
The news found us in Kingston, PA, too, here is the interview!
We intended to stop in at a food pantry in Washington DC–but this connection did not end up being amenable for addressing the intersection of food intolerance and food insecurity–so we moved straight on to Charlotte, North Carolina to meet up with a team of gastroenterologists, internists, registered dietitians and food pantry representatives from Atrium health to further our discussions on how to address this space from a clinical perspective–as well as via the clinical connection to food pantry channel.
Of course, I dropped off more food products for their Myers Park clinic, including Orgain drinks, 88 Acres, Fody foods, Nestle Health Science also donated 50 cases of formula for this patient population.
I really enjoyed speaking to this team and understanding the barriers they have identified for their patients living with food insecurity and food intolerance. It’s insights such as those provided by all of the individuals that we interviewed that will provide a more well-rounded perspective in how to address this problem. Baha Moshiree MD, Jason Baker PhD, Linsey Spence MD, Latoya Mallard MPH, Genevieve Hicks MHS, RDN, and KaylaHopkins MS, RD, and Iris Cheng, MD were present for our visit.
What a trip! What an eye-opening experience. Seeing all these amazing people at work – truly made me feel good about humanity. Stay tuned for our upcoming video capturing great interviews and more from our trip.
If you can, please donate. I have a list of organizations doing wonderful work for people living with food intolerance and food insecurity. Click here!
Be the good.
- Ma, Christopher et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2021;116:584-592.
- Tuck CJ et al. Food Intolerances. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1684. Published 2019 Jul 22. doi:10.3390/nu11071684
- https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/202103/National%20Projections%20Brief_3.9.2021_0.pdf-accessed April 7, 2021.