Somehow Christians have a hard time fellowshipping without food. Snacks or meals seem to add to the friendly atmosphere of an occasion. Those same snacks, however, often create a problem for people with allergies.
Imagine if you had an allergy or food problem with gluten, soy, egg, dairy or some other ingredient which is hidden in many foods. You go to some activity that has a huge table loaded with goodies. Many of those foods may make you sick, but it’s very difficult to figure out which ones they are. If you don’t eat anything, you look unfriendly. Besides, you’d like to join in. You don’t want to make a big deal about your allergy, but who can you ask to find out what you can eat? The table looks like one gigantic minefield for allergy sufferers. Maybe you should save everyone a lot of trouble and just go home.
Allergy sufferers face this same situation over and over again. How can we help these nice people feel welcome and safe in our gathering? Here’s some tips:
1. Keep labels for all packaged foods in the kitchen. That way allergy sufferers can read the labels and make their own decisions. You could also add recipe cards to this.
2. When catering for allergies, use simple ingredients. Instead of using a seasoning mix or a prepared food, make it from scratch with spices and ingredients that are clearly marked and don’t hide allergens.
3. At each activity make sure there are a few options for people with allergies and label the dishes clearly.
4. Put allergy-free dips on allergy-free trays that are clearly marked to avoid contamination through double dipping.
5. Have one person in your church who keeps track of allergy-friendly food. For example, I cook gluten-free for my husband and try to be aware of ingredients for him and others. If someone needs to know about a certain dish, they can always ask me and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll track it down for them without making a big deal about it.
This past Christmas season I needed a tray that would work for people who couldn’t have gluten, soy, egg, or sugar. I put together a dip that worked well for all of them and put it on a tray of veggies and crackers they could all eat. I’m making a similar tray tonight for a ladies’ night, which is a reminder to me that I needed to add this to my website. You can find it here.