Through our network partners, and through direct distribution, the Vermont Foodbank provides 153,000 Vermonters, including 33,900 children, with the nutrition they need to survive and thrive.
One often overlooked facet of the Vermont Foodbank’s work is our focus on procuring a wide variety of healthful foods, including foods that take into consideration the food allergies that many of our clients face.
The Vermont Foodbank estimates that over 2,700 of the children we serve, and nearly 4,800 of the adults we serve, have a food allergy. If we include the number of adults who eat restricted diets based on sensitivities to specific foods that number doubles to nearly 10,000 clients that require special food products*.
Eight types of food account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions: eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from minor skin irritation to anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
How is the Vermont Foodbank addressing the dietary needs of the clients we serve?
First, we’re talking to meal sites, food pantries and other partners to determine their special dietary product needs so we can attempt to source appropriate products.
Second, we’re talking to our donors and food rescue partners to ensure they’re aware of our distribution partner’s needs. United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), a distributor of natural and organic foods, is a major source of donated dairy-free and gluten-free foods, as are Hannaford stores via the Vermont Foodbank’s daily food rescue pick-ups at their locations across the state.
In addition to sourcing dietary-specific foods, the Vermont Foodbank continues to grow our produce sourcing via gleaning, farm donations, and increased procurement of fresh fruits and vegetables. We then distribute produce to network partners, to senior clients of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and via direct distribution to low-income family and senior housing sites statewide.
The Putney Foodshelf shared the following:
“The mission of the Putney Foodshelf is to offer healthy nutritious food and fresh produce to the food insecure. Over the past few years we have received an increased interest in natural foods and requests from clients with food allergies for gluten-free products.
“The Vermont Foodbank has been very responsive to requests for healthy foods and produce. Their willingness to work with their member partners to offer products that meet the needs of individuals with food allergies, low-salt and low-sugar requirements, whole grains, and vegan diets, has greatly improved the quality of food provided by food pantries and soup kitchens.
“The Putney Foodshelf, with the support of the Vermont Foodbank, now offers an increased array of gluten-free products. We now have a special section devoted to gluten-free and vegan products, which assists clients with their shopping.
“The Vermont Foodbank has played an important part in helping the Putney Foodshelf offer fresh produce and nutritious food throughout the year. We are pleased with their support and the increased supply of fresh produce and healthy foods that meet the needs of all our clients, but especially those with food allergies.”
*Estimates based on percentages provided by FARE.