With food allergies affecting 1 in 13 kids, it has no respect for ethnic background, social status or geographic location. Food allergies affect the rich to the poor. And, unfortunately, finding allergy-friendly food at a food bank can be tougher for those with dietary restrictions. I’m going to share a list of staples you can give to your food bank to help feed the hungry this holiday season.
*This post contains affiliate links*
Often when we think of donating food, we think of cleaning out our pantries, or buying staples like milk, eggs and flour. But, unfortunately, many processed, packaged foods (the kinds that last the longest, and food banks most often want) have one, or more, of the top-8-allergens in them. Only eight food account for 90% of all food reactions, hence the nickname: top 8. These triggering foods are: wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts.
So, as you can imagine, if you’re a family struggling and relying on a food bank to feed your food allergic family, it could be quite tough.
One thing that I think always brings the spirit of Christmas during the holiday season is thinking of and giving to others. I think sometimes we get swept up in this grandiose plan of doing something on a large scale. But, I wanted to show just how easy and inexpensive it can be to think of others. The basket I put together was probably around $15. Do I wish I could have brought in crates of food? You bet! But, do I think every little bit helps? That’s a resounding YES.
So, I went through my pantry and pulled from my food storage and gave what I thought would be helpful to a food allergic family. I get that not everyone has my exact same pantry, so let me give you some ideas, as well as an important tips.
OVERALL TIP: Be sure to read labels! If it has any kind of statement after the ingredients (or sometimes a few spaces below) that says something to the effect of: “May contain XXXX” or, “Processed in a facility that also processes XXX” then it is a no-go for most food allergy familes. For example–Wal-Mart has canned black beans. This is a great food pantry staple, however, because Wal-Mart processes a million and one things, almost all of their canned goods have this type of warning, so we have to stay clear of them. That is why I love dried beans, or I go with a brand that does not have a warning, like S&W or Bush’s.
Typically safe foods you could donate:
Rice (white or brown, instant or regular)
Beans (black, pinto, kidney, chick peas, northern, split peas, lentils…all sorts of varieties are great!)
Rice Chex or Rice Krispies (or generic brands work too–do keep in mind that rice krispies do have gluten in them, if you’re worried about gluten on top of a wheat allergy…for today’s purposes, we’ll try to keep it simple with just top-8-free things)
SunButter (instead of the traditional peanut butter for those with nut allergies)
Fresh fruits and veggies (these are naturally allergy free!)
Canned fruits and veggies (see overall tip above)
Thai Kitchen Noodle Soup (like ramen noodles, but more allergy friendly!)
I hope this gets your creative juices flowing!
And, be sure to make it a family affair. My boys and I had a discussion about it before hand, and then they helped carry the food inside and place it in the bins. There was a great worker there who also explained to them how helpful their donation would be. On the way home, we talked about how we felt, and I modeled how it helped me feel good inside knowing we were helping other people.
It was a great family outing, one where I could feel the true Christmas spirit. While my “ideal” Christmas list would include a new car (ours is about to give up the ghost!) and a cure for food allergies and on…and on…I also realize I don’t have to go to bed hungry. I am able to feed my children three meals a day (plus a million snacks!) and for that–I should give back and be grateful.
What truly inspired me to begin with was the #LightTheWorld initiative. Have you guys seen it? Talk about tear jerker! I was fortunate enough to preview it a few months ago with some other bloggers and I was so touched by the true Christianity of it.
I love how it shows us ways that we can emulate Christ in our modern world. In a typical advent calendar form, they have 25 days listed, but for each day, they have a service you can give. I just adore this idea. I was looking ahead, and in just TWO DAYS (we’re on day 5 today) the service is “Jesus Fed the Hungry, and so Can You”. Click here to see the entire calendar of fabulously charitable ideas.
I challenge us all to look outside ourselves this Christmas season. Give a little more. Think of others who are different (like with food allergies or medical conditions that require them to eat differently) and love them.
I pray we can all have a wonderful and safe Christmas season.
Merry Christmas, from my family to yours. Stay tuned–I’ve got some fun, allergy-friendly Christmas recipes coming up!