Mothers run allergy-friendly food pantry for families with special diets

“When my oldest daughter was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, it really hit us in the pocketbook,” Emily Brown, the co-founder of Food Equality Initiative, told Nation Swell.

Food Equality Initiative, which runs ReNewed Health, an allergy-friendly food pantry in Kansas City, is the brainchild of Emily Brown and Amy Goode. The pair was prompted by their own struggles in finding affordable food for their children, who have severe allergies, to open the pantry. According to Brown, allergy-friendly and gluten-free food can be two to four times the cost of shopping for a regular diet.

“We realized there were a lot of people in the same boat as we were who couldn’t afford these foods,” said Goode.

Food Equality Initiative strives to create a safety net for low-income families who, on top of paying other bills, have the additional burden of budgeting for allergy-friendly foods. Often, federal assistance does not pay for these foods, making it hard for financially needy families to comply with the exorbitant cost of catering to a special diet.

The pantry serves clients who have one or more family members that are diagnosed with food allergies or celiac disease. In order to qualify, they must also demonstrate financial need.

Stocked by donations from food drives, manufacturers and the public, the pantry has distributed more than 12,350 pounds of allergy-friendly food since its inception in 2015.

Brown’s daughter was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat and soy. Trips to the supermarket, where everything was expensive, and trips to the food pantry, where almost nothing fit her daughter’s diet, left her feeling frustrated.

“I work relentlessly to make sure that nobody in my city has to experience what I experienced,” said Brown.

“We would love to see our pantry model replicate all across the nation because we know this is a need that exists in every community, not just Kansas City,” said Brown.

Former refugee boats give cruisers a tour of Amsterdam through the eyes of migrants

Photo Credits: UNHCR

Once upon a time, ‘Meneer Vrijdag’ and ‘Klein Boot’ were boats that were previously used to smuggle asylum seekers across the Mediterranean in search for a better life.

Now, the vessels are traversing much calmer waters: they’ve been taken in by Lampedusa Cruises, a tour company in Amsterdam that invites residents and tourists alike to take in the city’s history, much of which has been shaped by refugees and migrants.

The skippers, from countries including Eritrea, Libya and Syria, all have one thing in common – they themselves were refugees who came to Amsterdam on a boat not unlike the vessel they now sit at the helm of.

“Our guides tell you the hidden history of Amsterdam through the eyes of its immigrants and outsiders, including their personal migration story,” the company’s website reads.

The company takes its name from the island of Lampedusa, which is a symbol of Europe’s migrant crisis due to it being a popular destination for refugees sailing from Africa. What the cruises hope to do is to provide an alternative, less traditional insight into Amsterdam that isn’t necessarily what first comes to mind when one thinks about the city.

“The beauty of this project is that while Amsterdam is so shiny, we dive into some issues that aren’t so clean,” said Sahand, a tour guide. “Most tour companies talk about the Golden Age of the Netherlands and point out the old buildings. We talk about the immigrants who built them.”

Nine-year-old runs library for children in slums of India

Photo Credits:   Pratham Books

Photo Credits: Pratham Books

Muskaan Ahirwar just might be the youngest librarian in the world: this nine-year-old girl, who lives in a slum in Bhopal, runs a library for children just outside her house.

When the state’s education center realized that children lacked interest in and access to books outside of school, they decided to do something to promote reading in the slum area. The education center held a quiz to create interest among the children, and Muskaan’s high score and enthusiasm impressed all the members of the center. They asked her for ideas on how they could educate the children living in the slum, and from then on, Muskaan’s library idea was born.

"I love doing this. Other children in slum area take books and then return other day. Some stay back to read here with me and ask questions where they don't understand," Muskaan told Times of India.

The library now has over 700 books donated from elsewhere in India and overseas, and has become a popular hangout spot for the children.

“Once I started the library, children who used to roam around have found new interest in reading and come regularly,” Muskaan told AJ+.

Children also play trivia games and have discussions about the books they’ve read at the library.

“Whoever has the drive to learn, they should start their own library and start learning, and study like us and get ahead in life,” Muskaan said.


Photo Credits: Pratham Books

Cinema for the visually impaired gives moviegoers new sights

Inside a small cinema in Jakarta, Indonesia, muffled back-and-forth conversation can be heard as movie watchers talk quietly amongst each other.


No – they aren’t being rude. This is a typical night at Bioskop Bisik, a “whisper cinema” designated to help visually impaired people enjoy a movie with the help of volunteers describing the scene.


“I want people to accept that people with disabilities, especially people with visual impairments are part of society,” the mastermind behind the cinema, Cici Suciati, told AJ+.


Screenings are held in the second week of every month at an alternative cafe space that deems itself as a “culinary cinema”. Volunteers are recruited through social media, many of whom help out regularly.


“This is a new and fun way of volunteering. I can give something to others in a way that’s never been done before and I’m able to see differently from their perspective,” Dina, a volunteer, told The Jakarta Post.


While listening to the audio can give visually impaired moviegoers a good idea of what’s going on, it often is not enough to set the provide all the information needed to understand a scene. An out-of-context scream, for example, can be interpreted as one of joy or frustration.


“This helps me a lot in terms of widening my horizons as a visually impaired person who likes movies very much,” said Siswanto of the initiative.


Photo Credits: The Jakarta Post