MEDFIELD (CBS) – Shelf after shelf filled with gluten-free food, and it’s all to help people in need. In fact, organizers say this is the only gluten free food bank in the country, and it’s operating in Medfield, supplying 15 food pantries in eastern Mass.
That’s a lifeline for families where celiac disease or gluten intolerance can cause violent illness. Since gluten-free foods are so expensive, the food bank is the only way some parents can get their children the food they need to stay healthy.
Once a month or so, Michelle comes to the Project Just Because food pantry for gluten free food. “Just to kind of help with the food budget,” she says.
Michelle and her son both have celiac disease. If they don’t eat gluten-free, they’ll suffer severe health problems. “He can get violently sick. A lot of children at worse, get violently sick. It can send them to the emergency room in some cases,” she says.
Project Just Because in Hopkinton has shelves stocked with gluten-free food now. Most of it comes from the gluten-free food bank. “We’ve had mothers come in with tears in their eyes, thanking us for giving them gluten free food, and it means something to that family,” says Cherylann Lambert Walsh, the founder of Project Just Because.
The gluten-free food bank is run by the National Celiac Association at a small office Medfield. “I think the first six months we delivered 3000 pounds of food. So the need is there. What we do is find the need in Massachusetts where people are looking for gluten-free food in food pantries, and then we deliver that food,” says Lee Graham, the executive director of the National Celiac Assoc.
Having access to that food is essential for people who need a hand, because gluten-free food can cost two or three times what the same item costs with gluten. “For those that are needy and under-served, where are they going to get this food? How can they afford to buy it? The food pantries are the ideal place for them to go and get food,” Graham says.
That’s the answer for Michelle. Each time she visits the pantry she leaves with the food her family needs. “It means a lot, not just on your budget, but on your health,” she says.
Project Just Because is a non-profit operation. They are having a fundraising walk on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Hopkinton High School.