With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.


23 May 2011

Food Allergies on Food Stamps

Buying allergy friendly food sometimes can be expensive. For most of us, getting the occasional freebie or coupon isn't really enough to make a difference. A peanut allergy or tree nut allergy adds some expense to your weekly grocery bill if you avoid foods made in a facility using peanuts and/or nuts. For my children and me, this means we are limited to certain brands especially for breads, which often are not the least expensive. 

If trace amounts or cross-contamination are not a concern for you, and you simply purchase items without peanuts or nuts as an ingredient, these allergies may have a negligible effect on your budget. Add another allergy, however, such as dairy, and your grocery bill increases more substantially. Avoiding wheat? Soy? How about foods with corn? Now imagine buying your allergy friendly groceries on food stamps--would you have enough for your basic grocery needs? How do food stamps take medically necessary dietary restrictions into consideration?

Food allergies are often dismissed as a health condition afflicting those in more affluent communities. We hear of big dollar fundraisers which are so important for food allergy research and advocacy but we don't often hear about the struggles of the average food allergic Joe trying to make ends meet, affording those epipens when insurance doesn't cover all the epipens needed, and making due with multiple food allergies on food stamps. Perhaps it is because those individuals are so busy trying to survive in these tough economic conditions.

Have you survived your food allergy budget on food stamps? Do you know of a food allergy friendly food pantry near you? Please share how you did it and tell us about the resources which offered you support. Your experience may provide some inspiration to others in similar situations.

14 comments:

Lindsay said...

I follow The Tender Palate on facebook, and she recently posted about a way to write specialty food (for allergies) off on your taxes! I didn't realize that something like that existed. I haven't looked into it yet, but here's the link to the blog post: http://www.tenderfoodie.com/blog/2011/4/5/taxes-did-you-get-your-allergen-free-deductions.html

Jennifer is Always Sick said...

I can't imagine doing it on food stamps or on a tighter budget than we're already on. I can't buy at the local Walmart because I have to get brand name most of the time - most of their generic store brand items may contain almost all the allergens...even their shredded cheese may contain nuts! People rely on store brands to save money, but we can't because of this. We have to buy brand-name, and then we can't buy the cheaper one based on price because it's cross-contaminated most likely. It's difficult.

Kudos to anyone raising kids with food allergies who need assistance like food stamps or WIC. In fact, I've heard (not verified) that WIC is available for anyone who requires a special diet for health reasons. It's something worth looking into.

Joy said...

So glad to see this article. This is my current situation, as I am a F/T Single Mom of 3 children (my ex-husband/their Dad is absent) with disabilities who also have Celiac/Food Allergies to: gluten, dairy, egg, oat, corn, nuts, etc. Their other illnesses make finding childcare--and thus, a job-- impossible. I am so grateful for EBT, but in FL the food stamp amount keeps being cut, so I have to buy allergen-free foods on less than $300/month. I've appealed to DCF to reconsider the amount, but in the meantime I feed them a lot of rice and potatoes, aim for optimal nutrition "bang for the buck", and have to prepare all meals at home. Thank you for covering this important issue. As soon as I find more solutions, I'll pass them on!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm a first time visitor here and also a parent who receives food stamps and has a child with nut allergies. In general I try to make healthy food choices for us but I would not describe myself as a health freak because I have weaknesses and cave in just like the next parent. Parenting a food allergic child does become a financial worry as she cannot eat the school lunch that she would get free if she could (I would give the school a grade of a B for their food/menu). Packing for lunches and snacks five days a week is a big part of my budget. We eat a lot of the same foods and leftovers show up for lunch the next day. As for the one food pantry nearby, it's really not an option due to the allergy. I've seen the items and ingredients/label warnings are an issue.

The Reluctant Crunchy Mom said...

In April, we knew something strange was going on with our son. We decided to try him on a gluten-free diet, which didn't help. Early this month, we had him formally tested for food allergies and he is allergic to 10 different foods that we know of (wheat is NOT an allergen for him, but rice is). So we had all of this gluten-free food that is high in rice content.
We live in Alabama, where we are still reeling from the tornadoes, and I made contact with someone in a local celiac group who was collecting food donations for gluten-intolerant people who were displaced by the storms. Luckily, I was able to put all of that food to good use.
As far as feeding my son, we are still figuring THAT out.....

Apron Appeal said...

While we were on on EBT the amounts given were so generous I had no problem finding food that was safe for my kids (nuts, dairy, eggs and soy). It's now that we are off EBT that we are struggling. We went from a $600 a month EBT food budget to $250 self funded food budget. My 8 month old was just given a multiple protein allergy dx and the formula we are giving him is costing us between $600 and $750 a month and ins. isn't covering it (not that it would matter as we have a high deductible ins)

A house or food, which is more important?

Apron Appeal said...

While we were on on EBT the amounts given were so generous I had no problem finding food that was safe for my kids (nuts, dairy, eggs and soy). It's now that we are off EBT that we are struggling. We went from a $600 a month EBT food budget to $250 self funded food budget. My 8 month old was just given a multiple protein allergy dx and the formula we are giving him is costing us between $600 and $750 a month and ins. isn't covering it (not that it would matter as we have a high deductible ins)

A house or food, which is more important?

Jennifer B said...

Thanks, Apron Appeal, Reluctant Crunchy Mom, Anonymous and Joy, for your comments! Buying for food allergic individuals can be costly, there's no question.

Wow, food stamp benefits seem to vary widely--Joy had only $300 or so for a family of 4 and Apron Appeal's family received $600 per month. It's really difficult to generalize whether a $350/month difference like Apron Appeal was able to make to her family's food budget--kudos to you Apron Appeal! My mind is always boggled by the cost of the prescriptions and formulas for children with multiple food allergies and other medical conditions--would make the difference in saving a family's home. I guess that depends on what sort of bills, debts and income a family has.

Stasie said...

Wow! What a great article. Although I have never used food stamps, I do find it very expensive to buy allergen free food. So I can't imagine what it would be like for someone on a limited income. Even though I bake at home, sometimes it is so nice to just open a box and grab a cookie!!

Anonymous said...

I'm working on research to see if there is way to get an increase in food stamps based on the fact that feeding a child with allergies costs more. We were at almost $700 with food stamps and got dropped down to $550 for a family of 7. My youngest is allergic to garlic making it impossible to buy anything processed everything we do is fresh made, we do a lot more with produce. Food pantry here does a lot with day old produce, meats, and dairy, which would help but it can take hours to stand in line. Any canned or boxed goods I would be forced to return to the pantry. With this decrease in money it also means I go back to feeding one child separately from the rest of the family and trying to explain all of this isn't easy to her.

Erin said...

I love this post! As a new person to this food allergy world, I'm trying to figure it all out as well. My 10 month old can't have wheat, peanuts or dairy. Being a picky eater as it is doesn't exactly help!! I'd love to link to your blog on mine if that is okay!

Anonymous said...

I too struggle with food budget. Multiple food allergies (milk, soy, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, corn...that we know of) I have found a few things that have helped me stretch my food budget.
The first is Amazon. Yep, been able to buy cases of food items much cheaper than in the stores. For example bought a CASE of Enjoy Life cookies (6 boxes total) for less than $2 a box!
Most recently Whole Foods! (Unfortunately it is over an hour away so we only visit when we have our appointments at Children's hospital). This past week we bought rice pasta that was on sale, used coupons they had available in store, and bought a case (12 boxes) so that we could get an additional 10% discount. In the end each 8 oz box cost us 35 cents! Yes, 35 cents for Gluten Free Rice Pasta! Took time to find 12 coupons in their sharing basket but worth my time to save that money ($1 off coupons per box).

Anonymous said...

I am in the same situation ...I am raising 2 children 1 for sure with severe reactions...if she gets cross contaminated with something...we have to stay home for atleast 2 days...rice and potatoes are a main staple...for the first time in my life I cannot afford ANY food on thanksgiving...today we have a quarter cup of rice and three potatoes ..the food bank here has no fruits n veggies from local farmers .....I don't have cable or any bills...I use all my cash after foodstamps and we are starving this month because I had to take my car out of the shop...it was getting very cold here in the north so $400 of our food money went twards that so we suffer for a month. My 2 youngest are disabled (mobility issues) it has been very hard,but we are alive still.

itsthetooth said...

I just did blood work a few months ago to find out I have a moderate intolerance to wheat, a miner intolerance to bakers/ brewers yeast and cows milk. For the last twenty years of my life I have had to sleep on my sides because I get choked up laying on my back. I just dealt with it not realizing I was having anaphylaxis to wheat, its in EVERYTHING. I too am on food stamps and ran out of stamps early last month probably as a result of now buying around wheat. I have limited myself to one wheat meal a day, but I'm still not able to sleep on my back. What shocks me is I have read online that about 74% of people have wheat allergies, so why isn't there more, and cheaper options available. I was also having serious IBS issues that seems to have passed since I have limited my wheat intake.

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