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Food Equality Initiative: Helping Families with Food Allergies and Celiac Disease

There is a gap in the food safety-net system. And Emily Brown is doing something about it.

Emily Brown of Food Equality Initiative

Emily founded Food Equality Initiative to improve health and end hunger in low-income families who contend with food allergies and celiac disease.

No small feat, but she takes this challenge on with tremendous heart, strategic thinking, and a real plan to make lives better.

We sat down with her—and our eyes and hearts were opened wide. Read our interview, and if you’re anything like us, you will be blown away.


Why did you start Food Equality Initiative (FEI)?

It was personal. I started Food Equality Initiative after experiencing first-hand the challenges of managing food insecurity and food allergies for my daughters. I knew we couldn't be the only family dealing with this challenge.

Food allergy statistic graphic

Food allergies present a serious medical need. While insurance provides some medical support (epi pens, in some cases), there isn’t any support to manage the condition day-to-day.

FEI helps by providing:

  • Access to safe and healthy foods
  • Nutrition education
  • Education on disease management (avoiding cross-contact) including skills to manage day to day

If a family is not able to provide adequate nutrition, their child is susceptible to developmental delays and other health issues that come from inadequate nutrition. By providing awareness and education, the detrimental effects are mitigated.

FEI fosters a culture of empathy. As a former preschool teacher, I am a big fan of empathy. I believe that if we all had more empathy it would make a world of difference.

Families who are contending with food allergies must add an extra layer of concern: that of cost. It's expensive to buy allergy-friendly foods. How does FEI help?

FEI’s food pantries ease some of this burden. Consider this: Grocery store “free-from-allergies” foods cost 2 to 4 times as much as traditional food items. In many cases, it’s an 80%, 200%, or even a 1000% mark up. For instance, a gallon of cow’s milk is around $4, but if you have to buy a milk substitute, you will pay anywhere from $6 to $15.

Food allergy cost graphic

How do you extend FEI’s mission into increased advocacy and outreach?

Our work is really to make sure that these foods are accessible to everyone who needs them. Right now, it’s mostly through prescriptive food pantries. But we are working hard to amend policies, to make food a covered benefit. We are working to serve all people, to support anyone who has a food allergy or celiac disease.

Your website is an excellent resource. It even has amazing recipes and tips. What are some of your favorite go-to recipes or tips?

My family loves this spaghetti squash shrimp scampi recipe; it’s perfect for fall. I have found that a dash of nutritional yeast sprinkled on top of popcorn makes it taste just like SmartFood, but less expensive and healthier! This yeast also can be added to oil, vinegar, and lemon juice to give an added dimension to a quick and easy salad dressing.

Wow, do we love what you do! Tell us, what are some things that we can do to help?

  • Tell a friend about our work.
  • Our new campaign is underway. We are asking people to take action and donate. Contributions may be big or small, even rounding up their change or giving $5/week really adds up.
  • Have empathy and respond accordingly. Understanding and taking a moment to be in someone else’s shoes goes a long way.
  • Let your community know about our vision.

How to help graphic


Thank you, Emily. Not just for advocating and making lives better, but for showing us the power of empathy. Empathy and action can move mountains.

Consider sharing this blog or telling one person about Emily and FEI. You'll never know what a difference it can make in a life.

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