‘Drive to Care’ comes after house bound members feared they wouldn’t be able to get gluten free products during lockdown.
The Coeliac Society of Ireland is teaming up with baked goods brand Promise Gluten Free to deliver free food packs to hundreds of vulnerable coeliacs who are cocooning in order to stay safe from the coronavirus.
Delivery of around 400 packs to the homes of mostly elderly people throughout Ireland will start this week. They will include baked staples like gluten free bread but also Easter treats such as hot cross buns. The Society hopes that further deliveries in the coming weeks will include products from other manufacturers.
The move comes after cocooning members of the Coeliac Society who could not travel expressed concern that they would struggle to access gluten free products as the coronavirus lockdown continues. Many feared they might become ‘glutened’ because they would not be able to stick the strict gluten free diet which is required to manage their coeliac disease.
Coeliac Society CEO Gill Brennan explained: “Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease, which has associated complications that can leave individuals very vulnerable to complications at the best of times and these are not the best of times.
“If people with coeliac disease consume gluten they can develop symptoms such as abdominal pains, diarrhoea, anaemia, or vomiting which could require medical treatment. This would pose a risk to the individuals and put additional strain on an already under-pressure health system.
“We didn’t want this so we talked about how we could get some staple gluten free products to them. Promise Gluten Free Without hesitation they agreed to help and have arranged for free deliveries of a care packs to those members aged 70 and over in the coming weeks. It has been a real example of the Meitheal this week as the teams at the society and Promise Gluten free have worked together to gift something to our deserving members.”
“These are vulnerable people in the current climate, not least because many of them have underlying conditions other than coeliac disease. These care packs will help keep them safe and well by allowing them to stick to their gluten free diet, but they will also mean they have one less thing to worry about at a time of real stress and anxiety in their lives.”
Mary Horkan, Senior Marketing Manager at Promise Gluten Free, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown is a very worrying time and it is important that we help and protect those who are vulnerable.
“We hope the care package brings some joy to those people who can’t leave their homes right now, The Promise Gluten Free Team is delighted to play our part by helping cocooning members of the Coeliac Society. The packs include gluten free bread and some comfort food in the guise of hot cross buns and brioche. We are also continuing to supply our products to supermarkets and other shops throughout the country that cater for people with coeliac disease and other gluten intolerant customers.”
The Coeliac Society will also be liaising with local help organisations across the country where members require further assistance and has moved some of its advice support services online during the coronavirus lockdown.
The society’s dietitian Sarah Keogh is hosting weekly Facebook Live Q&A sessions on how to cope during the Covid-19 crisis. These will cover different health topics that are relevant to coeliac sufferers, including Osteoporosis: Are you getting enough calcium? Fibre and Coeliac Disease: What are the best sources? Looking after your heart: Cholesterol and you.
Ms Brennan added: “With no ability to have group support meeting and dietetic consultations, we hope that this kind gesture will go some way to showing that we are continuing to care for their wellbeing and that they are most definitely not alone. We will be reaching out to other suppliers and trying to coordinate with the various community support groups to ensure that those identified as coeliac and vulnerable are catered for in the coming weeks particularly If the restrictions continue.”
Symptoms of Coeliac disease can include abdominal pain, recurring mouth-ulcers, weight-loss, vomiting and diarrhoea. If untreated, coeliac disease can affect fertility and lead to other health conditions such as osteoporosis and even cancer. People with underlying chronic conditions such as these and others are at higher risk of serious illness.
Anyone wishing to support The Coeliac Society of Ireland can do so at the following https://www.coeliac.ie/join-now/donate/