When the chicken is off limits

A man drives through OneGenAway's mobile food pantry in a red truck to receive food.
A man drives through OneGenAway’s mobile food pantry in a red truck to receive food. Photo by Kris Rae Orlowski

When we met George, he was sitting in his car and reading a packet of papers that looked like a matrix or some sort of numerical cipher. Turns out, it was sheet music for the harmonica he held in his lap.

“I was a professional player for 40 years,” he said. “And then, since my wife’s disease, I don’t go out as much and play. But I still hit the books.”

We were excited to tell him that he was going to receive prepared chicken that day, but he said he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to eat it unless he knew exactly where it came from and how it was prepared.

Sometimes meat and spices contain additives with gluten, and George couldn’t have gluten. He isn’t just gluten-intolerant; he has celiac disease, which prevents him from consuming any trace of gluten.

Now, with so many gluten-free products on the shelves these days, that may not sound like too tricky of a dilemma, but the reality is that the FDA allows trace amounts of gluten in gluten-free products (no more than 20 parts per million). So, many gluten-free products are still off-limits for George.

George has to research his meat, spices, and processed foods to ensure they’re safe for him to eat. He even has to use a separate cutting board from his wife so there is no cross-contamination.

This means George ends up eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, which are naturally gluten-free. He grows his own in his garden, but to help alleviate some of the cost burden, he does come to our mobile food pantry.

His wife has an autoimmune disease as well as diabetes, so highly processed and sugary foods are off the table for both George and his wife. He said he’s grateful for OneGenAway because a high percentage of what we give comes straight from the ground.

“This is one of the better [mobile food pantries] by far for the simple fact that you don’t give a lot of inexpensive, processed foods. And don’t misunderstand me, I’m very thankful that people get that, but we can’t consume it,” George said. “The vegetables are definitely a benefit.”

Fresh fruits and vegetables can fit into any diet, no matter the restrictions, so we work hard to ensure we provide a large variety. We’re thankful to work alongside a community that makes that possible.