I went gluten free in September of 2008. Gluten is the protein found certain grains; gluten free means not eating wheat, rye, barley, and for some, oats, and not eating foods made with those ingredients. Two months later, I went dairy free as well, as it turned out I couldn't digest casein, one of the proteins found in dairy products. It was a big adjustment. However, I was used to dietary adjustments, having tried eliminating various foods, or food groups, over the years, trying to solve a variety of digestive and systemic symptoms. But, this was the first time I truly understood exactly what I was to eat, not eat, and why. In the past, it had been a lot of guesswork. A practitioner would say, "Try eliminating 'x' for a month, and see how you feel." But this time, as a result of genetic testing, I had hard evidence that my particular system could not process gluten protein.

So many positive changes occurred for me as a result of eating a gluten free diet, that I became deeply interested in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Wheat Intolerance, and any other related syndrome that could impact someone based on eating certain grains. I read an article in the Oct/Nov issue of Living Without magazine http://www.livingwithout.com/news/fundraising_food_bank-2665-1.html about a single Mom who has a 12 year old boy with Celiac Disease (who has to eat gluten free foods to stay healthy and well). She writes that as she is feeding him the warm macaroni and cheese that she got from the food bank, he is smiling and happy, but she knows that in an hour or so, he will be doubled over in pain because there were no gluten free choices at the food bank, and the food bank was her only current source for food.

It broke my heart! Then, I wondered about our local food bank. Perhaps I could start a gluten free shelf at our local food pantry. I contacted Feed My Lambs, at our local Congregational Church, and talked to them about it. They were very welcoming and enthusiastic. I went in with a bag of gluten free products from my own personal pantry, and started stocking the first shelf. As it turns out, the very next day they received a phone call inquiring whether there were any gluten free foods available. They were so happy to be able to say yes.

So, now, it's time to get the word out further afield. If you, or someone you know, can't afford to buy the gluten free foods they need to stay healthy, tell them about the Feed My Lambs food pantry. It's open every Tuesday from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon. The pantry is located in the church office building, at 12 Center Street, Exeter. New this year, this past summer Feed My Lambs had a garden right outside the food pantry, with five raised beds, offering their patrons fresh salad greens, green beans, tomatoes, and more. It was a great success, and all these foods are fresh and naturally gluten free! If you would like to donate to the food pantry, you may do so at any time during church office hours. The church office manager would be happy to take your donation of either non-perishable food items or cash/check. She will provide you with a receipt, if requested. Office hours are Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or call 603-772-4216.

Claire Houston, MS, LCMHC

Exeter

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