We recently had a chance to sit down with Emily Brown, Founder & CEO of Food Equality Initiative (FEI), and rock star 🤩 food allergy mom! For years, we’ve followed FEI’s efforts to improve nutritional health and end hunger for those in the food allergy and celiac community. We’re thrilled to feature their incredible work in today’s post!
Meg: Can you tell us a bit about FEI’s mission?
Emily: Our mission has three parts: first, to increase access to safe foods that are free from common allergens (we call them free-from foods); second, to educate the food allergy and celiac disease communities about nutritional health; and third, to advocate for these communities on a regional and national level. While our activities and methods have changed since our founding in 2014, our vision has remained the same.
Meg: How has your work evolved since 2014?
Emily: We started with a food pantry model because it was the lowest cost for us to initiate and maintain. Our thought process was that traditional food pantry options are limited for those with food allergies and intolerances, so we wanted to create a free-from option to directly serve those individuals. However, once we got started, we saw that this model did not serve the community best; food pantries often have limited food selection, strict operating hours, and few locations. Most of all, it didn’t allow our families to preserve their dignity. No one wants to have to ask for help or special treatment! We decided to shift our focus and work on a different model that would better serve this community.
In 2020, thanks to a grant award we received weeks before the pandemic shutdown, we launched our direct-to-door food delivery box. This service is free for FEI-qualified families that are traditionally underserved and food insecure.
Our food delivery process is tailored to the recipient’s needs. For example, if they need gluten-free, egg-free, and peanut-free items, then that’s exactly what they’ll get. Best of all, the experience is completely online, making this option convenient and efficient. Our engagement has increased 300% since launch!
Meg: What kind of impact has FEI had over the years?
Emily: While our impact can be seen most visibly in the form of our direct-to-door food box delivery service, our advocacy work benefits everyone—not just low-income families. We aim to serve the entire food allergy community! Working to get free-from foods accessible is beneficial for all food-allergic individuals, regardless of financial status. At FEI, we believe access to safe, affordable, and nutritious food is a right, not a privilege.
Our advocacy work is aimed at better servicing the food allergy community as a whole. This means advocating for legislative changes like more stringent labeling requirements, increasing education and awareness, and pushing for accommodations in workplaces and schools.
Meg: What are some new projects you’re excited about?
Emily: One of our latest undertakings is producing a magazine for our friends and family members in the food allergy community. The Free-From Magazine, launched in November 2020, is composed of articles written by people who have been affected by food allergies or celiac disease in any way, shape, or form.
We have articles written by parents of young children with severe food allergies, teenagers, physicians, allergists, and dietitians. Our contributing writers come to us from all across the United States, and we even have one in Germany!
The goal of the Free-From Magazine is to provide a platform for the food allergy community to connect on a personal level and educate each other on best methods for managing a restricted diet. We want the magazine to be empowering and representative, showcasing the economic and racial diversity within the food allergy community.
A free digital version is available for everyone to view on our website. We are always looking for contributors! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested to learn more.
Thanks to Emily and her team for FEI’s amazing efforts to provide access to safe food AND important information for the food allergy community! For more info about how to qualify for FEI assistance, check out their website.
— Meg & the Allergy Amulet Team