CHATHAM, NJ -- Eighth-grade Girl Scout Cadettes Katie Markley and Laurel Hamilton, both aged 14 and residing in Chatham, are adding the finishing touches to their Silver Award. The project: helping to raise awareness about the struggles that food-insecure families with allergies and other dietary restrictions face every day.

Markley and Hamilton are encouraging the community to donate allergy-friendly food during allergy awareness week, May 10th-16th at the Presbyterian Church of Chatham Township at 240 Southern Boulevard.

Even before the recent pandemic and economic shutdown, about 1 in 8 people were food-insecure in the state of NJ. One can only imagine how high that number is now. While there are no statistics that currently show what percentage of people also have allergies, allergy-friendly food is generally very expensive and can often drive families into debt, or force them to make choices about paying for housing or medical needs. Both Markley and Hamilton have food restrictions and realized the added costs for their families. Markley has Celiac disease, which prevents her from eating gluten, and Hamilton is lactose intolerant. 

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“Imagine you already are struggling to find food, and now you can only eat some of the food you get from food pantries," Markley said. "Do you eat the food and get sick, or do you go hungry? It’s a dilemma no one should have to face.” 

Hamilton said: “We were so glad to see how many places in the community were already collecting food for those in need. Our project is about reminding our already generous community to think about allergy needs when donating.”

Picking up one extra allergy-friendly item can make all the difference to a struggling family.

"This project is even more important now," Markley said. “So many people are struggling. With unemployment rates rising and businesses closing, so many local residents are struggling to find affordable food. We need you now more than ever.” 

Donation Information: 

All shelf-stable food donations are welcomed, whether allergy-friendly or not.

  • Markley and Hamilton have organized a food drive at the Presbyterian Church of Chatham Township during allergy awareness week (May 10th-16th). They ask that you please leave donations on the front steps of the church, during the hours of 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at 240 Southern Boulevard.

  • Food donations are also accepted directly at the Interfaith Food Pantry (more information here) located at 2 Executive Drive, Morris Plains NJ, Monday-Friday, from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The Silver Award is the highest award available for Cadette level Girl Scouts. It requires girls to work with members of their community to find a long-lasting solution to a problem. More information about the Silver Award can be found here