Superstorm Sandy Relief Fund

20 Comments 01 November 2012

I’m sitting here in the middle of Queens, NY with power, and emergency supplies sitting around that need to be put away. We just took the tape off of our windows. And if you looked out my windows right now, it’s almost hard to believe that not far away Superstorm Sandy caused so much damage and changed so many lives. The frequent emergency vehicle sirens in the background keep things in perspective.

I’m so glad I got all of my emergency supplies together for Hurricane Irene last year! Please, if you haven’t put your emergency supplies together yet, please do it NOW! Click here if you need help putting it all together.

I can’t even begin to tell you what an emotional experience this has been. Not only was it terrifying to feel the house shake with every gust, but the warnings alone were enough toΒ  spike your adrenaline. And afterwards, watching the news and seeing all of the crazy images of subways full of water, lower Manhattan blacked out, people being rescued out of zones that weren’t evacuated, complete neighborhoods razed by fire, and people losing their lives, you can’t help but re-think your life and what’s really important.

I couldn’t help but wonder how people were going to eat with special diet restrictions. People who lost everything along with people that weren’t going to have power for many days.

It seemed clear to me that the best way for me to help right now would be to start a food drive.

I discovered Feeding America, the non-profit organization that is an umbrella organization for many of the nation’s food banks. You may be familiar with one of their member banks named City Harvest, a well known food bank with swanky affairs here in NYC. Feeding America is well respected and has received top honors as a charity. I thought it was extra nice that they provide personal care items too!


So, I thought it would be best to let the professionals take care of where the food should go. So, here it is the Celiac Chick’s Superstorm Sandy Relief Fund virtual food drive. I’ve seeded the drive with $100. Each dollar donated equals 8 meals. So, that’s 800 meals. All donations are tax deductible.

Of course, all of us in the gluten-free community want to make sure there is gluten-free food available at these banks for our friends in need. I’m sure there are naturally gluten-free foods available, but is it organized and is there a variety of gluten-free food?

So, this is where we can all roll our sleeves up a bit and get involved in the action.

Here’s a great article from Living Without with tips on how to help your local food bank understand the need for gluten-free food. Regardless of where you live, your local food bank probably needs help. If all of us went to the one nearest to where we live and helped out, then we could ensure that all food banks understand the needs of gluten-free people and will have gluten-free food easily available.

Let’s start a food bank revolution! πŸ™‚

I’ve talked to Dee Valdez at length on the phone about her efforts in helping her local food bank to be the first one in America with clearly organized gluten-free foods. It can be done!

So, click here to find the link that leads to your local food bank. And I’d love to hear back from you about how things work out. Maybe discuss this at your next local celiac disease Meetup group or celiac disease support group meeting. Together we can be very powerful!


UPDATE 11/2: Erin over at Gluten-Free Fun has a list of three food banks (and drop off centers) that are now accepting gluten-free food donations. I’m sure any food bank will take them, but for now and in our area, these have actual contact people that you can work with directly and find out the requirements needed.

Here is the list:
Long Island Cares
City Harvest
Food Bank of NYC
Island Harvest
The Community Food Bank of NJ
East Elmhurst, NY

You can also purchase 1 2 3 Gluten-Free Mixes and donations will be made from sales. See details here.
Another way we can ensure that food banks nationwide have gluten-free foods is by giving gluten-free food directly to the food banks.Β  Individuals can organize a food drive in your local area and then deliver it to the food bank or a gluten-free business can contact the local food banks or Feeding America headquarters and find out how they can donate their products. I’m pretty sure there are tax breaks for businesses that want to partner with them in this way.

I’m envisioning gluten-free care packages put together by gluten-free companies. Wouldn’t that be swell?!

If you do drop off gluten-free food, or other special diet foods to your local food bank, please label it with one of these helpful bag tags. You can also print out a sign for the food bank to use on their shelf or to post for people to see that they do have gluten-free and allergy-friendly food available.

It’s going to take awhile for many people to recover from this mess, but we can at least comfort people a bit with some food.

Thank you in advance for your help!



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20 Comments so far

  1. 1
    Erin Smith says:

    As the lead organizer of the NYC Celiac Meetup group, I’ve heard from many group members who want to help those needing gluten-free food in the tri-state area. In addition, we have many group members that were directly affected by the hurricane.

    I have been in contact with five local food banks about specifically donating gluten-free food. I am waiting to hear back from all of them but sadly I am learning a few do not cater to special diets. As soon as I have additional information, I will post to our NYC Celiac Meetup message board as well as on my blog.

    Thank you
    Erin Smith

      Kelly says:

      Great, Erin! Happy to hear you guys are on it in the city! Please keep me posted. I’m volunteering in person at NY Food Bank warehouse next week, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to talk to someone in person.

      I’m discussing with someone in Bergen County NJ too that wants to help cooking actual hot meals too. Evidently, City Harvest has experessed interest. I was sad to find out that Red Cross actually does hand out Vegan AND Kosher meals…but not GF! I think if we all pull together in this aftermath, moving forward we could change this!

        Erin Smith says:

        Thanks Kelly. Here is a list of food bank donation sites and other ways to help the gluten-free community:

        I am also finding that most donation sites will not cater to special diets except for Kosher.

        Aleka Munroe says:

        I volunteer for the American Red Cross in NH and have asked our Sheltering and Mass Care leaders about having gluten free food available. I was told that most of the time there is no way to get gluten-free or other special dietary foods to the shelters. Early on in the sheltering process food is donated by local business. Red Cross volunteers are very busy taking care of other primary needs and rely on whomever is willing to give hot or any kind of food. Also shelters are typically set up in institutions, like schools that have a kitchen and staff that are used to cooking a mass meal. Often kitchen staff will try to accommodate special requests made of them by the person needing a special diet, but only if they have the ingredients. When I brought up this issue with a NH State run Emergency Team captain, she told me that when she volunteered after Katrina she personally ate nothing but one kind of granola bar for three weeks. We need to remember that roads are often blocked, electricity and phones are often shut down, etc. and prepare our own gluten free survival kit. If you don’t need it at a shelter, great.

          Kelly says:

          Aleka…I totally get it. One of the food banks here said that they need at least several palettes of food in order to put the word out that they have a special type of food so that they will have a supply when people come and not run out.

          I also understand the whole transportation issue. Plus, right now there is the gas shortage.

          And I totally agree with you that we all can use this as a reminder to make sure we have our own emergency supply together. The responsibility first falls on us.

          Keep up the good work!

      Aileen says:

      Kelly and Erin,

      Being the cynic that I have become…my first thought was: do the food banks want to bother about separating GF from “regular” food? I’m not sure they will take the effort to make sure that GF food gets to those who need it.

      Maybe it’s time to start a food bank specifically for special needs diets.

      Regardless, thank you both for your TIRELESS work.

      Still without power but have hot water for showers,


        Erin Smith says:

        Aileen, you aren’t a cynic. I am thinking the same exact thing and have been asking all of the food banks how they ration out the gluten-free food. I will post the information as I get it.

        There is a gluten-free food bank in Colorado and a few food banks in Massachusetts that have gluten-free option but not a dedicated one in NY, NJ, or LI.

        Kelly says:

        Aileen…so happy you have hot water!! I think I would choose that over power! πŸ™‚

        I totally understand the skepticism. Did you read the linked article in Living Without with the tips from Dee Valdez? It can be done! If we all go to our local food banks and help them I believe it can be done. And besides, now I see the need to even know where my local food bank is! πŸ™‚ Plus, I bet there are naturally gluten free foods there too.


  2. 2
    Aleka Munroe says:

    Here is an idea about helping shelters that our NH Seacoast Celiac Group is implementing. We hold a cookie swap in November. Two members will take a box of a prepackaged variety of cookies to two local food banks for the food bank to store in a freezer for families who receive gluten free food over the holidays. Granted it is not a large scale solution but a volunteer, do-it-yourself way of starting a revolution.

      Kelly says:

      Aleka…I think that is a nice idea. And maybe they could add in some more substantial staples too. Anything helps!

  3. 3
    Sue Peters says:

    Kelly! You read my mind. As I was in my kitchen, with power, in downtown Brooklyn thinking about how I could help people in my nearby Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, I wondered ….how are people with gluten sensitivity faring? if I make this giant hot chicken and kale soup, is there anyway I could get it to people who most need it, who can’t eat gluten and processed foods. I know what it is like to eat foods that make me sick and then take a week or more to recover. I don’t know what it is like to do this, but then not to have a warm bed, hot shower, warm clothes, and electricity for up to a month! I can’t even imagine. Thank you for writing about this. I will likely just bring my soup to anyone who needs it, and know that it will be healing regardless of that person’s specific dietary needs.

      Kelly says:

      Sue…mmmm your soup sounds delicious! Try to find out through the links above where your local food bank is. Maybe take some groceries in a few days? I think there are health dept. issues with home cooked food. Or post on the NYC Meetups message board that you have soup you’d like to give to anyone in your hood. Just ideas?

  4. 4
    Claire Baker says:

    I’ve heard that the Joe’s of Avenue U in Staten Island is encouraging/accepting gf food donations to distribute. Any news or confirmation on that? Good idea? Or stick with food banks?

  5. 5
    Kelly says:

    Claire: I have no idea. I would stick with working with your local food bank and taking the food in person. Please let me know if you find anything else out.

  6. 6
    Erin Smith says:

    As of today, there are now 5 specific locations accepting gluten-free donations for those in need. I will continue to update my blog as more information comes in.


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Kelly Courson


Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.

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