Securing Safe Food is a nonprofit with a mission is to fight food insecurity among individuals with food allergies and to improve access to allergen-free foods.
MISSION & HISTORY.
The pandemic sent hunger levels skyrocketing. Visiting a food pantry during lockdown meant waiting in long lines with no promise of obtaining scanty resources. In this landscape of pricey groceries, empty shelves, and widespread labor loss, millions of people confronted a food crisis alongside a public health one.
In March, our founder noticed how COVID-19 was compounding issues faced by those with food-allergies like her. As the virus spread, expensive baseline costs of gluten-free and allergen-friendly foods rose higher and products like rice flour were harder to come by. This contributed to the disappearance of safe, everyday foods from the market, further narrowing the restricted diets of people with allergic and gastrointestinal conditions. The pandemic particularly exacerbated and exposed the difficulties for those reliant on the food bank system. Allergen-friendly foods were already hard to locate in depleted grocery stores, but scale down to a food pantry with more limited choices, and the obstacle of finding safe food significantly increases.
While SSF began as a pandemic-focused initiative by members of the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) Teen Advisory Group, it has since evolved from a grassroots food delivery initiative into a national organization working to combat food insecurity and enhance the availability of no-cost, allergen-free foods. We partner with food pantries committed to our mission of providing a diverse range of nutritionally balanced alternatives for allergen-avoidant families.
We communicate with our pantries to ensure foods reach those most in need, during all steps of the partnership onboarding and food delivery process. And we provide educational tools to ensure that thoughtful communication—between pantry staff to clients—continues during distribution.
SSF’s CEO conducts research with the Feinberg School of Medicine to study food insecurity and food allergy-related inequities. This research will inform the educational tools and guidelines SSF provides to pantry partners. We connect with food pantries around the country to reach as many communities as possible, but the core of our success lies in our commitment to individualized support.
LOCAL ACTION FOR GLOBAL IMPACT
We work with each pantry on a one-to-one basis to cater to the unique dietary needs of their visitor base while considering regional dietary trends. While the global scale of food allergy is unknown, food allergens have been identified across the world. The SSF philosophy has potential for food security efforts at a global level.
Research shows that individuals with food allergies, particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, are at a higher risk of food insecurity and related allergic reactions—preventable and potentially fatal. While food pantries serve as a primary source of reliable and healthy food, most U.S. food assistance programs do not cater to individuals with medical dietary needs. With food allergies and intolerances on the rise globally and post-2019 supply-chain disruptions continuing to limit accessibility, more people than ever are in need of inclusive options.
People with food allergies who also have food insecurity report anxiety and depression scores twice as high compared to food-allergic people not at risk for food insecurity.
AAAAI Annual Meeting
Food allergies cost the average family over $4000 per year. The costliest expenses are direct medical costs and allergen-free foods.
Opportunity costs related to food allergy include time taken away from parents’ careers, productivity, and kids’ school attendance. These all feed into wealth and income. Easy access to safe food means more potential to live fully and end the poverty loop.
Access to safe food can save lives.
Allergy-free nutrition has ripple effects—better education outcomes, financial stability, and less worry.
WHO WE ARE
Founded by Rachel Brooks when she was a junior in high school, our 100% female core team remains student-led—our impact in three years represents the work of part-time leaders under 24 years old. Many of our volunteers have food allergies, making SSF a rewarding way to connect with and support their food allergy community.
FOUNDER & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Rachel Brooks is the Founder and CEO of Securing Safe Food (SSF) and a third-year undergraduate student at Princeton University, studying English on a premedical track.
"Being allergic to multiple foods, I have grown up navigating a marketplace where the assurance of “allergen-free” often carries a subtle postscript—not affordable and difficult to find. When the pandemic struck, I could not imagine how more disadvantaged food allergy households were accessing safe food staples amidst our global food crisis. In response to my challenges in grocery stores and an immediate need in my local Connecticut food pantries, I launched SSF, a nonprofit that partners with community food programs across the country and equips them with allergen-free foods. SSF is a collaborative movement that prioritizes food security as an issue of food safety and inclusivity. Through SSF’s education initiative, food pantries become more accommodating of diverse dietary needs and allergen-avoidant visitors access safe, varied foods to improve their health."
Food security starts with accessibility.
We are driven by the belief that everyone deserves easy access to safe and nutritious food, regardless of their health conditions or economic circumstances. There are more than 60,000 food pantries in the U.S. and over 60 million people with food-related conditions. Together, we can circumvent hunger and create lasting change with global resonance.