COVID-19 and Food Allergies: What’s the Big Deal?

It was March 2020 when…. well, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you know what I’m talking about: the dreaded Coronavirus. It’s stolen people’s jobs, canceled trips and stolen all the toilet paper. But what about food?

Now, you’re probably going to think about how big of an inconvenience it is to wait in the 30-car-long Starbucks line, how your favorite trail mix is out of stock EVERYWHERE, and you can only get the generic brand of Lucky Charms. I know this sucks: trust me, I’ve had my fair share of whining about how my favorite snacks are out of stock everywhere. But the situation for people with celiac disease and food allergies is so much worse.

I know I’m lucky that I only have a nut allergy, and I don’t have to worry about not being able to get the right milk or egg substitutes, or something along those lines. But nevertheless, it’s still a struggle.

Our family does pick up orders so we don’t have to physically go into the store. The store always calls us before we pick up the groceries to tell us what isn’t in stock, and asks if we would like to substitute it with some other random brand they find. We can’t do this for a lot of things, such as bread and sweet snacks, because we can’t check to see if they contain or are processed with nuts.

Today, they called to say that they were out of these mini muffin-type snacks called Little Bites. They asked if they could substitute, and we said no because every other brand is processed with nuts. 

Well, they substituted them anyways. Sure enough, the brand was processed with nuts. We had to give them away to another family that doesn’t have nut allergies because we physically couldn’t eat them.

For people with milk allergies, things like almond milk and soy milk are flying off the shelfs and going to people who don’t have severe dietary restrictions, but have dietary restrictions of their own choice. Those with food allergies don’t have a choice.

I can imagine it’s even worse for those who are food insecure. I was reading a post on the Food Equality Initiative’s Instagram that said this: There are 60,000 food pantries in the US. Only 4 accommodate food allergies.

This was absolutely shocking to me.

COVID-19 has proven difficult to everyone, but finding something as basic as food is a huge struggle for those with food allergies without COVID-19, and Coronavirus just makes it that much worse. Below are some ways you can help.

1. Don’t buy excessive amounts of allergy friendly alternatives

Please don’t hoard things like almond milk, soy milk, egg substitutes, vegan alternatives to certain foods, etc. because some people are counting on these to survive. Unless you have a dietary restriction that you can’t control, like a celiac disease or a food allergy, please don’t excessively buy the allergy safe alternatives. It may be tempting to hoard since we don’t know how long this pandemic will last, but please leave some for those who really need it.

2. Join in on this project

As some of you know, I am part of FARE’s Teen Advisory Group (TAG). One of the projects for this year is aiming to help those with food insecurity who also happen to have food allergies. Their current goal is to understand how school district’s are handling food allergies in their meal programs during Coronavirus. All you have to do is email your school district asking them what their accommodations for children with special diets are during this time. Please click here for more information on how to participate in this wonderful project.

3. Donate

Donating is always a good idea in helping others. There are so many COVID-19 relief organizations that I don’t even think I could name all of them, but I am going to stick with just one for now. Spokin, a food allergy app, recently launched Spokin Cares. Spokin Cares is a partnership with the Food Equality Initiative that aims to help food allergic individuals who are also victims of food insecurity. You can donate to them here.

Other methods of helping this campaign are by sending allergy friendly food and shopping verified brands. You can learn more about this campaign and other methods of helping by clicking here.

Hopefully the COVID-19 pandemic will get better soon. In the meantime, we have to do what it takes to make sure everyone has access to basic needs like food.

What have you been making in the kitchen during COVID-19? I’ve been making brownies. Comment down below!

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. None of nallergy’s content is intended to be substituted for medical or professional advice. Please consult with your doctor, allergist or other professional if you have questions. Nallergy is not liable for any information you do or do not take, and anything that may result from taking or not taking said advice. To read our full disclaimer policy, click here.*

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