Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series
Name: Securing Safe Food (SSF)
What They Do: SSF is a nonprofit dedicated to combating food insecurity among people with food allergies. They work to improve access to allergen-free foods by partnering with food pantries nationwide, providing education, resources, and support.
SSF focuses on supporting those who suffer from common allergens, referred to as “allergen-avoidant.” They supply U.S. food pantries with essential food staples for allergen-avoidant families, catering to those with medically necessary dietary restrictions related to conditions including food allergies, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and gastrointestinal disorders. SSF is attentive to the diverse needs within communities, particularly among Hispanic, Black, and Asian populations, by offering culturally relevant, allergen-friendly choices.
How They Do It: Prospective partner pantries actively seek out help from SSF, or SSF supports underfunded pantries in locations relevant to their medical referral hubs. Supplementing fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins with allergen-free food staples is a primary goal.
When partnering with new food pantries, SSF offers pantry managers surveys and collects data on visitors’ food allergies, related special diets, and allergens they need to avoid (alongside demographic information if available). If pantries are running short on allergen-friendly food options, they let SSF know what size donation they’re looking for and what type of products would be most helpful, like seed butters, snacks, or non dairy alternatives.
Their interactions with allergen-friendly food manufacturers stabilize their food pantry program by maintaining a consistent loop of SSF deliveries. When partner food manufacturers (such as SunButter, WayFare, or Jessica’s Natural Foods) are due for a monthly or quarterly donation, SSF personally pairs it with a suitable pantry from their waitlist, prioritizing both the date of the food request and specific information on file about the pantry’s request and general dietary needs. SSF assigns the manufacturer a pantry address, and then coordinates logistics with the receiving food pantry manager before and after the food arrives to share details on the incoming shipment and ensure responsible distribution (i.e., that it reaches allergen-avoidant pantry visitors, according to partnership guidelines). By curating a strong donation base and facilitating every shipment from start to finish, SSF places minimal burden on food pantry staff while strategically allocating resources to enhance access to safe and nutritious options.
Mission: To address the challenges faced by those with food allergies during the pandemic and beyond, SSF ensures equitable access to safe, allergen-free foods by collaborating with innovative manufacturers, through education, and by encouraging community engagement.
Latest Project/Campaign: “Safe Allergen-Free Pantries” – An initiative ensuring that food pantries are stocked with allergen-free foods and have the resources to cater to diverse dietary needs.
SSF collaborates with allergen-free brands to facilitate food donations, creating opportunities for these businesses to contribute to food equity. Allergen-friendly manufacturers ship foods directly to approximately 30 food pantries across four geographical regions. Volunteers coordinate food deliveries, ensuring minimal burden on pantry staff. SSF is expanding their portfolio to include more diverse products such as masa harina, buckwheat and brown rice noodles, and basmati rice.
SSF encourages food pantries to track dietary needs by collecting data on visitors’ dietary conditions and demographics. This information helps tailor food shipments to accommodate individual and community needs. They also provide food banks with accessible educational resources, including easy-to-read materials, such as posters, flyers, and QR codes. in both Spanish and English in order to reach a broader audience.
Major Funding: SSF relies on grants, donations, and in-kind food shipments to fund their initiatives.
Annual Budget: not disclosed
Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: SSF maintains strategic collaborations with medical centers and clinics such as Stanford University’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research to address the pressing needs of individuals facing both food allergies and food insecurity. These partnerships center around a referral program, enabling clinicians to direct food-insecure allergy patients to local pantries stocked with SSF-provided allergen-safe foods.
Securing Safe Food (SSF) goes beyond simply filling plates in order to positively impact the food system. By delivering allergen-friendly products and engaging pantry staff, they address the specific needs of vulnerable communities that are dependent upon avoiding common allergenic foods. When their pantry partners request these products, SSF also delivers educational resources and offers allergy training to food pantry staff.
SSF’s approach involves a commitment from pantry partners to keep the foods they supply separated and targeted to visitors with food allergies and/or medically necessary dietary restrictions. The training emphasizes the necessity to separate allergen-friendly foods and ensure that they remain in their original packaging to prevent cross-contact with other allergens. This meticulous approach prioritizes the health and safety of people with dietary restrictions, providing them with clear ingredient information so that they can make informed food choices.
- Location: Headquarters in CT
- Number of Full-Time Staff: The staff is led by undergraduate and high school students, all working as volunteers as they simultaneously navigate their academic careers.
- Number of Volunteers: 13
- Areas Served: Nationwide impact, working with food pantries across the country to address food insecurity among individuals with food allergies and special diets.
- Year Started: 2020
- Founder: Rachel Brooks
- Contact Information: email@example.com
- Website: https://www.securingsafefood.org/