Food banks are struggling to meet special dietary needs, including food intolerance and allergies. With rising food allergy rates, food banks in the U.S. and Canada are seeing a growing need for allergy-friendly foods.

Linda Browne, president of the Edson Food Bank in Canada, says her organization is trying its best to meet these needs. “If people have allergy issues then just let us know if you have allergies or gluten intolerance — with the food we have we can definitely work with that,” she commented. In such cases, food bank volunteers load bags with food that doesn’t contain the allergen.

Determining Ingredients in Donated Foods

In most cases, this means fresh foods like carrots, potatoes, and corn. However, processed foods make it trickier to fulfill food allergy-related requests. Food bank volunteers struggle to determine the ingredients of the many different foods on their shelves. “You do have to be very careful because gluten can be in everything,” commented Browne. They save certain products, such as rice crackers, to substitute for gluten-free bread (not often available at the food bank) to clients who need gluten-free foods.

Marzena Gersho, spokesperson for Food Banks Canada, says food intolerance and allergies have become a growing problem in Canada’s food banks. “This continues to be a challenge in trying to find appropriate foods,” she explained. Food banks must be more careful to make sure the foods they provide meet an individual’s dietary needs. “At the end of the day it is a challenge because food banks do not have that much money,” she said.

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