HPIM0899Many foods banks in the U.S. are seeing a 40% increase in the needs of their communities. With the current economy, times are tough for many people and food is something they can’t go without. If you’re familiar with food banks, you know that they often offer bread, soup and pasta, in addition to other things. More often times than not, the soups are from Campbell’s, none of which are gluten-free (according to the company), and of course the bread and pasta contain gluten.

Every time the nightly news covers a story about how food banks are barely able to help all those coming in for food, one can’t help but wonder how many people in need might not be able to eat gluten. Some food banks offer only shelf stable foods which means much of what they are giving people contains gluten. Just because someone is hungry doesn’t mean they can literally make themselves sick by purposefully eating gluten.

There is one similar program in South FL which is excellent for people in that area that can’t gluten. However, there is a need for similar programs all over the country and that’s where Gluten Free Dee steps in. For those of you who are not familiar with Dee Valdez, let’s just say she’s an amazing gluten-free advocate, to say the least!

One of my favorite things about Dee is that she is not willing to pay for bad gluten-free food she finds inedible. She implores us all to return bad gluten-free food and get our money back, period. If you know anything about the average food buyer for grocery stores, you know most of them don’t know good gluten-free food from bad. Therefore, you’ll often find less than stellar tasting foods at regional and national chain food stores. Dee’s theory is that if gluten-free consumers return bad tasting food, grocers will get the point and stop buying products with high return rates – brilliant!

Now Dee has turned her attention to the gluten-free consumer that needs a helping hand in these trying times. Announced last week, the first nationwide gluten-free food bank program has begun. Read how this organization came to be in Dee’s touching post. Hopefully, the idea will catch on and grow into a program we can all be proud of. If you want to learn more about the program, join the first meeting tomorrow in the Loveland, CO area at the House of Neighborly Service. Visit Dee’s website and see what you can do to contribute to this amazing cause. The first meeting and ribbon cutting ceremony is Tuesday, Dec. 8th from 4-6 pm at the House of Neighborly Service. For people outside that area, you can get involved as well.

Excerpt from press release -

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Loveland’s House of Neighborly Service will be the test site for the new program Valdez is designing to be implemented in communities across the country.  There are scattered efforts to gather gluten free food for the holidays or offer a monthly gift card to help offset the extra expense of a gluten free diet.  “What I see that is missing is a systematic approach to feeding gluten free families in need,” say Valdez.  “If someone has Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance, they can become very ill in the short and long term if they eat gluten containing food because that is all they have.” Bread is plentiful in food banks across the country.  Gluten free bread is not.  Valdez, or Gluten Free Dee, as she is called, intends to change that.

This is the season for giving and what better way to do that, than to help people who must eat gluten-free but can’t afford it in your own community? Special thanks to Gluten Free Dee for fighting the good fight for all of us every day. You are a true hero among us!