Imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and everything has changed. You've lost your job and your home. You've barely any money in your bank account and there are few options for help financially as well as for food.
And this is where things really get tricky for you. While there are organizations set up to feed those who are down on their luck, who've suddenly lost their job, or who are struggling to put food on the table consistently for whatever the reason, you wouldn't find any help at these food pantries and kitchens. The reason is that they do not focus on serving those with food allergies, food sensitivities and intolerances, nor those with autoimmune diseases such as Celiac disease which require a lifelong gluten-free diet as the only way to stay healthy.
If you have Celiac disease (or any other autoimmune disease that's aided by a specialty diet) or are sensitive to gluten and/or dairy and find yourself in a situation where you can no longer afford to feed yourself (or your children), your options are limited. Until now, you would either eat food that isn't safe or you'd go hungry. Food pantries and kitchens aren't set up to accommodate your needs because it's beyond their scope of being able to help you.
This problem was highlighted during Hurricane Sandy when so many people had lost everything that there was a serious public outcry for these specialty foods not stockpiled by any organization. And while you might think that pantries could at least provide fresh produce which is naturally gluten and dairy free, they are not typically able to store and supply such foods to those in need. Boxed and bagged packaged foods keep the longest and unfortunately most of what's donated isn't gluten or dairy free.
Ultimately it's people like you who are at an even greater risk of food scarcity... to go hungry, to become malnourished, to become increasingly sick just trying to feed yourself and your family because no one has these specialty foods available for you or your children.
That's why I decided to found The Rachel Way Food Pantry in September 2015. It's our mission to collect and distribute allergy friendly foods to those in need. Since our doors opened with shelves lined with gluten and dairy-free foods, we've been able to provide these allergen-safe foods as well as educational support to many in need. The Rachel Way is seen as a safe haven for those in our community who are at even greater risk of going hungry and becoming ill which puts them at an even greater disadvantage to improve their situation by being too sick to look for work and care for their loved ones.
It's not just adults who are affected by this issue, but many children as well. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), every 1 in 13 children has food allergies. Celiac disease affects every 1 in 133 individuals while the number of those with gluten and dairy sensitivities/intolerance seems to be increasing. One client's daughter was constantly sick because she must avoid dairy, but the foods available to them were not dairy-free until now at our pantry. Parents have come to us who are struggling to put food on the table and often going hungry just to provide for their child with celiac disease. And we've had many clients walk through our doors and burst into tears because it's the first time in a long time they've ever had access to food that will not make them (or their child) sick.
The Rachel Way was named after my inspiring teenage daughter Rachel who became very ill in 2012. After seeing many doctors, they determined that she was sensitive to dairy and gluten. The journey to completely change her diet wasn't easy, but she has never complained and remained steadfast to it despite the world of temptation we live in which can be even more challenging to a child or teenager longing to fit in with their peers. For our family, we experienced the financial sticker shock of this diet change, but we were fortunately able to make it work.
But that got me thinking... what if circumstances were slightly different for us? Would we be able to afford the foods that have completely changed my daughter's health and allowed her to become this vibrant, happy young woman I know now? Probably not. After learning that food pantries and kitchens can't provide safe foods, I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that adults and children who require specialty foods would be able to access them and so we opened The Rachel Way located in Plymouth Meeting, PA. We are the second specialty food pantry that currently exists in the US and it's our hope to eventually expand to serve other communities in need.
Right now, we need your help to keep our shelves stocked and to eventually purchase a special delivery truck that will allow us to dramatically expand our reach within the Philadelphia area to provide speciality foods. Every cent you donate goes towards feeding and supporting families in need who require gluten and dairy-free foods so that they no longer have to worry about where or if they will have something safe to eat tonight.
Thank you so much for your contributions which are tax-deductible since The Rachel Way is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.
© 2015 by The Rachel Way. All rights reserved.
Please Note: I do not provide the services of a licensed dietician or nutritionist, information received should not be seen as medical or nursing advice and is not meant to take the place of seeing licensed health professionals.