Food Equality Initiative says pandemic puts pinch on allergy-friendly foods

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Posted at 6:43 AM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 07:43:57-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Grocery shopping is hard enough for Maria Srader. She and her son suffer from a combined five food allergies and intolerances.

Now that the world is dealing with a pandemic, finding allergy-friendly food is more of a challenge for Srader and others in her position.

“The stuff is for us, it’s gold. We know there are other people who really truly need it,” Srader said.

The Food Equality Initiative, based in Kansas City, Missouri, said grocery stores are struggling to keep nut-free, dairy-free and gluten-free options on shelves. The organization is urging people who don’t need the food not to buy and the people who need the food to only buy what they need.

“When they come to the store and they see empty shelves, it is not just an inconvenience or frustration it is potentially a health issue,” explained Emily Brown, the founder of the Food Equality Initiative.

Her organization operates a food bank with allergy-friendly items which it gives to low-income families for free.

Since the pandemic hit, Brown partnered with Knoq to start delivering those items and the organization is now selling items at cost to families above its income criteria.

Part of the Food Equality Initiative’s mission is to advocate for agencies to make modifications for allergy-sufferers. Some school districts in the Kansas City area are not passing out allergy-friendly meals at distribution sites.

"If someone has that need before, it didn’t go away because of COVID-19. It is still there. And family still need access to services,” Brown pointed out.

The organization is asking people to put pressure on groups like school districts and USDA-funded distribution centers to account for food allergies.