Imagine having Celiac disease but lacking the resources to afford safe food. Imagine living with the reality that your only choice is either food that will make you sick or going without.
With the creation of S.A.F.E. Food Pantry, hopefully the number of people having to make that decision will soon decrease.
In early 2014, Tiffany Holtzman, the Founder and Board President of S.A.F.E. Food Pantry, was giving the task of creating a business that would solve a problem as part of her social entrepreneurship class at Howard Community College. “Thinking about my own needs to have gluten-free and allergy friendly food, I realized the difficulty of people who suffer from medical conditions, including food allergies, Celiac disease, and gluten intolerance… They have to choose between eating food that makes them ill and not eating at all.”
With the thought of people in her local community who didn’t have the ability to purchase the appropriate food for their lifestyle in mind, she created S.A.F.E.—Supplying Allergy Friendly and Emergency—Food Pantry.
“[S.A.F.E.] shifted from a concept to a reality with the encouragement of Maureen Burke, owner of One Dish Cuisine, the only gluten-free and allergy friendly café, deli, and bakery in the United States,” explains Holtzman. During this shift from idea to actual nonprofit organization, Holtzman met six other individuals who shared her passion. Together, these seven people form the Board of Directors.
The mission of S.A.F.E. Food Pantry is “to provide gluten-free and allergy friendly food to those in need,” says Holtzman. This specific type of food lies at the heart of the organization’s premise due to not only Holtzman’s own food restrictions but also because of the high cost of gluten-free items. “A lot of the standard items in a food pantry are not allergy friendly,” explains Holtzman. Through this organization, gluten-free and allergy friendly foods can be served to an increasing population. At the same time, awareness of these medical conditions that require special dietary needs can be brought to the attention of the people who suffer from them.
Despite the high hopes of the organization and the hard work of the Board of Directors, the livelihood of the nonprofit falls on the shoulders of dedicated volunteers and donators. “Volunteers are truly the heart of the organization,” explains Holtzman. “We are able to keep our overhead low so we can focus on community outreach and ensuring our neighbors in need receive the safe food that they require.” Volunteers can register to help through the organization’s website: http://www.safefoodpantry.org. In addition, One Dish Cuisine in Ellicott City, Maryland currently acts as a permanent collection point for food donations. However, “financial contributions are the lifeblood of our organization,” states Holtzman, simply because it allows S.A.F.E. Food Pantry to continue paving the way for their future: expanding regionally and eventually nationally.
Holtzman describes S.A.F.E. Food Pantry’s overall goal as having “our own dedicated physical location in addition to continuing to work with food pantries… Down the road, we would love to educate clients with recipes and eventually provide nutritional counseling.”
By Alexandra Shimalla