Around 32 million Americans are currently living with food allergies that can make everyday grocery shopping a difficult task. And with the onset of COVID-19 leaving store shelves across the nation devoid of most foods, the task of preparing food becomes even more dire for those who suffer from food allergies.
For those who have food allergies and other dietary restrictions, grocery shopping is not just a matter of picking the freshest or the yummiest ingredients on the shelves— it’s a serious matter of safety and health. In the most severe cases, it can be a matter of life and death. Anywhere from around 1 to 5% of Americans are believed to suffer from anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can cause potentially life-threatening effects within minutes of contact with an allergen. Other dietary restrictions such as the gluten-free diet required by those with celiac disease also require much more selectivity when it comes to purchasing food— selectivity that becomes difficult when shelves are empty due to increased buying from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 has had especially devastating effects on our community in New Jersey. As of Friday, May 8th 2020, the state has seen over 130,000 confirmed cases and nearly 9,000 deaths due to the virus. Grocery stores have continued to witness overwhelming demand for products such as toilet paper, disinfectant, and produce, resulting in many stores instating a limit on purchases in order to fight hoarding.
Luckily, there are ways to help. Lisa G. Gable, the CEO of the nonprofit Food Allergy Research & Education, recommended that shoppers without food allergies exercise caution when making choices about what to buy at the supermarket. She asked that shoppers consider others’ dietary restrictions when purchasing items like soy milk and gluten-free foods which are necessary for many who need to eat those to survive.
For those with food allergies, Kids With Food Allergies recommends that families take greater precautions when cooking due to the newfound proximity of family members who may have different dietary restrictions. They also recommend shopping strategically by minimizing visits to the store and looking for local grocery delivery services.
This will be a difficult fight, but working together as a community, we can get through this. Here at Nourish, we would like to ask everyone to be mindful of what they purchase and keep other shoppers in mind— especially those who may not have the luxury of eating whatever is left on the shelves. Though this pandemic presents uncharted territory for us as a nation, we strongly believe in the fight to overcome this challenge together. Remember to follow social distancing guidelines and stay safe everyone!
By: Michelle Liu