Foods that are gluten free and allergy friendly are 2-4 times more expensive than the typical grocery items and almost impossible to find in local food pantries. No one knows this better than Claire* who has celiac disease and other food intolerances. She receives a modest $15 per month in FSP (Food Supplement Program) benefits to aid her in purchasing gluten free and allergy friendly food. Step into Claire’s shoes and experience what it is like to choose between hunger and eating something that will make her ill.
Claire is now able to find gluten-free food at the Howard County Food Bank during her monthly visits thanks to generous donors like you. “It used to be next to impossible to find safe food at the Food Bank. I would leave there with a small bag of items and go home to bare cupboards, while other people left with grocery carts full of food. Then, I would have to wait another month to return to see if there was anything I could eat. I am grateful for S.A.F.E. Food Pantry since I can now find food that works for me. S.A.F.E. is a real blessing for me.”
Financial contributions help people like Claire obtain the gluten free and allergy friendly food that they need to thrive. Help us assist more clients with gluten free and allergy friendly food with a donation today.
* Client name changed to protect privacy
The S.A.F.E. Food Pantry is finishing off October with a bang. With three events in three days, our goal to spread awareness about the need for gluten free and allergy-friendly food for those in need is truly happening.
On Thursday, October 26, Dr. Donna DeCosta from FoodASC was our featured speaker at our quarterly Food for Thought session. Her talk on The 3 E's to Empowerment: Passing the Food Allergy Baton covered the main topics to Evaluate, Educate, and Equip children who have food allergies. These tips also apply to parents of those with celiac disease and other related medical conditions as well as adults. For more information on this talk, please visit: www.foodasc.com/safe. While you are there, don’t forget to sign up to join the Food ASC community.
Our fall gluten free and allergy friendly food drive took place on Saturday, October 28 at the Giant Food in Clarksville, Maryland. We were fortunate to have sunny yet cool weather as we embarked on our quarterly community food drive. We appreciate our new and returning donors for making our food drive a success. If you would still like to donate, you can:
Also, on Saturday, October 28, our Youth Fighting Hunger team was invited to the Cel-Kids Halloween Party in Baltimore. Our youth ambassador, Lily, spoke about her experiences conducting a food drive for her bat mitzvah. We are so lucky to have Lily and her mom, Sara, as part of our team. They developed the Youth Fighting Hunger- Allergy Friendly Food Drive how-to guide and customizable flyer. Tiffany was also there to talk about the organization and food drive opportunities.
We would love to have you join our team as a food drive volunteer. There are many different opportunities:
by June Ramey and Kristine Dzagan
Traveling with lots of food allergies can definitely be troublesome. In essence, we who have food allergies are trusting people we have never met and who may not be aware of how devastating food allergies can be to get us a healthy meal. We can do our part by being specific, but if the people on the other end don't take it seriously, or the waitperson doesn't relay all the information, it's up to us to ferret out whether we should enjoy a meal at a particular place from obscure signals and Hercule Poirot-type clues. So here are some tips for eating safe while traveling:
June Ramey serves as the Board Secretary for the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry. She and her daughter, Kris Dzagan, co-authors of Celiac Creations for Multiple Food Allergies: How To Survive When Your Food Is Killing You are dedicated volunteers to the organization and have been featured speakers at past Food for Thought sessions.
On Sunday, October 9, the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry was at the Baltimore Zoo for the Baltimore FARE Walk for Food Allergy. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share information about our organization and our upcoming events!
We still have some other events coming up this month. We hope you can join us!
by Tiffany and Allan Holtzman
We started the SNAP Challenge with optimism that we could stretch our $44 ($22 for each of us) to supply us with five days worth of food. Along the way, we learned that SNAP benefits do not go far to assist people with special dietary conditions as we tackled a diet free from gluten and the top allergens of wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.
Prior to the challenge we ventured to Trader Joe’s and Wegmans and bought the following items to total $33.96:
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 5.49
Organic Sweet Peas, Frozen - 1.99
Organic Strawberries, Frozen - 2.69
3 Bananas - 0.57
Organic Buckwheat Groats - 4.49
Organic Garbanzo Beans - 2.99
Organic French Green Lentils - 2.99
Organic Basmati Rice - 4.59
Organic Tomato Paste, Canned - 0.89
Jones Turkey Links Frozen - 2.59
Organic Carrots 5# - 3.99
Lemon - 0.69
SUBTOTAL - 33.96
We wanted to keep some money in the budget for buying meat later in the week, if necessary. By Tuesday evening, we dipped into our remaining budget, spending $6.03 for some chicken pieces that were on sale, leaving us with $4.01 remaining.
Here is what we learned from our experiences, in no particular order:
This SNAP Challenge was definitely an eye-opening experience for us. We are extremely grateful to be able to afford the gluten free and allergy friendly food that we need and look forward to assisting those who cannot afford safe food through the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry.
Tiffany Holtzman is the Founder and Board President of the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry. Her husband, Allan, is a dedicated supporter and volunteer for the organization.
Living on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, called the Food Supplement Program (FSP) in Maryland, can be a struggle for many families. Starting on Monday, September 12 through Friday, September 16, the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry is working in cooperation with Maryland Hunger Solutions to participate in the SNAP Challenge.
Since the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry has a mission to provide gluten free and allergy friendly food to those in need, we will be doing the SNAP Challenge with special dietary conditions in mind. We encourage you to join us as a participant in the SNAP Challenge if you have special dietary needs including food allergies, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, to name a few.
For more information on this special gluten free and allergy friendly SNAP Challenge, please click here for more information and registration. On this page you will also find a food log to help you keep track of your food for the five-day challenge.
We would love to hear from you throughout the week, so please use hashtag #SNAPSAFE as you connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email.
by June Ramey
My journey into the world of food allergies began 9 years ago when I got a desperate phone call from my daughter, asking me to move in with her, my 6-year-old grandson, and her new husband, Bob. Within six months of their marriage, he had become increasingly ill with numerous ailments never fully diagnosed. She dearly needed another pair of hands with a driver's license.
As we researched Bob's bewildering symptoms to find ways to give him a better quality of life, we began with gradual changes. Good quality vitamins and probiotics were our first line of defense, and we then moved on to eliminate soy and gluten from our diet. We determined early on that any changes we made, would be for the whole family, as we were all in this together.
Bob's health improved a bit, and my daughter, Kris, noticed she began feeling better also. We continued to eliminate other common allergens, such as artificial sugars, ginger, peanuts, and tree nuts, and saw added success. However, it was too little too late, and shortly after that, Bob's health declined and he died.
Although Kris wasn't officially diagnosed until a couple years later, we knew she had Celiac Disease, IBS, and candida, a yeast overgrowth in her body. We continued on the diet and just when we thought we had Kris back on track and healing, her health took another turn. Through testing, we discovered we had to eliminate tomatoes, anything fermented, fruit, condiments, dairy, natural sugars, and yeast.
At this point, there were no packaged foods we could open for a quick meal, and we quickly learned the joys of cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients and herbs. With the elimination of each new allergen, all our favorite recipes had to be reworked with substitute ingredients. Especially in baked goods, when you have to replace more than a couple key ingredients, nothing turns out the way you expect it to. We fed the garbage disposal a lot, and joyfully celebrated the successes. We documented all the recipes that worked, and went on to design new dishes to give us a greater variety of foods.
Realizing there had to be a lot of other people who were struggling with multiple food allergies, we contacted a publisher. At the end of four years, we had published a 400-page cookbook called Celiac Creations For Multiple Food Allergies: How To Survive When Your Food Is Killing You.
As Kris' list of allergies increased, we noticed a correlating increase in the cost of our grocery bill. We considered ourselves blessed to be able to afford the great food, but wondered how people who are less fortunate, manage to feed themselves and their families. When I was asked to join the Board of Directors for S.A.F.E. Food Pantry, I saw an opportunity to make a real difference in a greatly underserved community, by helping to establish a food pantry that specifically addresses the dual problem of food allergies and food insecurity.
Food allergies are on the rise, and due to the increased cost of allergy-friendly foods, there will be more requests for safe foods from food pantries all over the U.S. We are establishing partnerships, raising awareness of this increased need on our local level, and invite interested people from all walks of life to join with us in whatever way they can to promote this important work.
June Ramey serves as the Board Secretary for the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry. She and her daughter, Kris Dzagan, co-authors of Celiac Creations for Multiple Food Allergies: How To Survive When Your Food Is Killing You will be speaking at this Sunday's Food for Thought session. Click here for more information or to RSVP for our free educational session.
June is a busy month at the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry. We are looking forward to the following upcoming events and hope you will join us:
Sunday, June 12 from 11AM-4PM
2016 Washington DC Gluten-Free Expo
DoubleTree Hotel in Bethesda
8120 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814
The DC Gluten Free Expo is a great opportunity to meet with over 70 gluten free vendors and attend 6 different educational sessions. Thanks to the generosity of the Celiac Disease Program at Children’s National Health System, the S.A.F.E. Food Pantry will have a table where we will be sharing our mission to provide gluten free and allergy friendly food to those in need. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children and can be purchased in advance on the DC Gluten Free Expo website or at the door.
by June Ramey and Kristine Dzagan
Each of us with food allergies has our own unique story to tell, our journey through the deserts, mountains of hardship, and the unexpected moments of hope and inspiration. We share a common bond—the insatiable drive for survival, and the compelling hope that we can improve our situation. The sum of our lives is not encapsulated in any moment when we might feel the most helpless, and where our restrictions seem insurmountable. So, how do we transition from victim to victor?
Embrace the challenge! Think about it. If life was always the same, never changing, it would be boring. (How many days in a row can you eat your favorite food?) This is a new adventure and opportunity for you to learn something exciting, to explore the unknown. It doesn’t have to be scary or dreadful. Find a way to make it fun.
When we first started down this road and I realized I couldn’t eat anything with gluten in it, I hated cooking. In fact, I would have rather done yard work and fixed the roof than spend an hour in the kitchen chopping vegetables and making dinner. I had lost my enthusiasm for eating, except for foods that were high in carbohydrates and sugars. I lived for that “instant gratification” and “sugar rush.”
Once I realized I either had to start cooking differently or starve, I accepted the challenge. In fact, I was determined that this setback wasn’t going to beat me! We started cooking from scratch, reading every ingredient on every label, and coming up with creative new ways to fix an old meal.
Make it fun! It became a family game for every member to rate the meal on a scale of one to ten, with one meaning you were going to throw up and ten meaning you would pay a lot of money for that meal in a fancy restaurant. Anything that rated six and under was either thrown in the “do not make again” pile or redesigned. Unless it was a unanimous vote that the meal was awesome, we always asked the question, “What would make this better?” When a meal rated nine or better among all of us, we knew it was a winner!
Another game was to try to guess the ingredients. We still play this game when we go out to a restaurant and like a particular dish. We will then try to reproduce the same taste in our kitchen. If we bring home leftovers, we will compare it with the dish we’ve created, just to see what we need to tweak in our recipe. We will brainstorm possible ingredients we can use as substitutes, do some research on that ingredient, and then try to incorporate it into a recipe to see how it responds in the cooking process. If we find something that works, we create variations that are different enough to tantalize the taste buds, but not cause us to reinvent the recipe. Each of us, including children and guests, provide feedback and suggestions based on our own individual preferences.
Accept who you are! You are wonderfully unique, even if you have siblings who were born on the same day as you. There has never been another person exactly like you nor will there ever be! Find ways to love who you have become and who you will be, even with all of your imperfections. Sometimes it’s the imperfections that make us beautiful! This includes loving yourself, even in the midst of your struggles. Food restrictions are not the sum of who you are.
Think about how healthy (or unhealthy) you feel at this very moment. You are beginning a wonderful journey toward feeling better and helping your body heal. Take a minute to imagine how much stronger and healthier you will be when you’ve made positive changes in your life. Keep this model in your mind every time you get frustrated or bored with your options. You are exceptional and you will overcome!
Get back to basics. What is it that you love to do? What motivates and energizes you? If you don’t know, figure out what you absolutely dislike and what drains your energy. Once you’ve identified those things, look to the opposite to see if that’s where your passions are hiding. Find time to do those things you love.
Stay positive! Always try to find the positive side of everything. Dare to see things in a new light. Okay, so you can’t eat some of your favorite foods. Give yourself a little time to mourn the loss, but then look at the positive side of the issue and find a way to celebrate the new you. What are the other wonderful options available to you? How good will you feel after staying away from foods that make you sick? Who ever knew that food could taste so good? Is this a good excuse to get one of those kitchen gadgets you’ve been thinking about buying for the last six months? What will you reward yourself with when you meet your goal?
No matter what is going on inside you or around you, practice the art of positive thinking and watch how your health will improve (And so will your cooking!). Situations that once seemed hopeless will become opportunities for success. Don’t fret if you try something new and it turns out to be a “failure.” Some of our best recipes were “failures” intended to be something else! Besides, you may be just one step away from success.
Seek out support! Eating differently is a lifestyle change. You are not alone in this effort—many people have had to make this change, just like you. Look at your immediate family and the style in which your family deals with problems. Is your family unit like the Three Musketeers: one for all and all for one? Or is your family more like independent superheroes: every man for himself? Adapt and adjust to find the support you need.
Do any of your friends or co-workers struggle with the same issues? Food is a wonderful way to connect with others. Bring in your favorite healthy recipe to that potluck lunch or going away party and see what happens. I once brought in home made to a going away party at work. Several months later, people were still talking about how good it was, and a couple people even asked for the recipe! You can use multiple food allergies as an icebreaker in a conversation with people you've just met. Doors of support and encouragement open up when two people share a hardship.
Look for formal or informal support groups. These can be found in local papers or newsletters, clinics or even on-line. If you can’t find one in your area, start one!
Give back to the community and encourage others! Research your illness or allergy and learn as much as you can about it. Share what you’ve learned. It’s empowering! When you talk and share with others, listen to what they are saying and encourage them to share what they know. Everyone has something to contribute. Even those people who are great in their fields of expertise, have stood on the shoulders of those who came before them. Build each other up so you are stronger together.
And this is just the beginning!
Perseverance through hardship builds character, and so does the joy and celebration of a new life! There is more awareness now about food sensitivities and intolerances than there were ten years ago—even five. Because of this, more alternative foods are available each year. Take advantage of all your resources and go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
From Board Member June Ramey and co-author Kris Dzagan - Celiac Creations For Multiple Food Allergies: How To Survive When Your Food Is Killing You.
The S.A.F.E. Food Pantry is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) organization based in Howard County, Maryland.