Food Insecurity + Food Intolerance

Both are difficult issues on their own. And when put together?

Kayla Vokolek
4 min readJan 19


Photo by author.

Food prices are insanely high right now. And gluten-free food has always been expensive compared to gluten-containing counterparts.

I’m lucky enough to have parents who do so much to financially support me but if I didn’t, I would probably have to choose between housing and enough food — food that would not slowly deteriorate my small intestine.

And what if I had no housing at all? I can just imagine myself lying on the street when someone offers to buy me a Subway sandwich. No matter how much my stomach grumbled, I would politely decline. I could maybe take a chance with cross-contamination, depending on how starving I was, but I would never purposefully eat that much gluten.

I can also imagine that previously well-meaning person scorning me, acting like I was so hoity-toity for maintaining a gluten-free diet when I was homeless.

I won’t describe the gross bodily functions that are triggered by my eating gluten — ones that would made even more miserable by living on the street — but I’m actually comparatively lucky, having been diagnosed earlier than many.

One user @mysecretcurse wrote that “eating gluten can kill me. The last time I was glutened[,] my thyroid shut down and I was nearly hospitalized.”

I have a friend whose dad owned a pizza shop but had to give it up because he felt so sick all the time, with no clue why. Years later, he discovered he had celiac and constant exposure to gluten had exacerbated his condition. He found a new career and received a helpful diagnosis, but there are others who are understandably unable to earn an income, and thus risk loss of housing or food insecurity, when suffering from a chronic disease.

Celiac, if left unchecked, can cause “chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, bowel cancers and lymphomas, and more.” And it’s left unchecked for far too many people. 83% of Americans with celiac are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

Awareness campaigns for diseases sometimes seem limited to me. I have a kidney disease too, for example, and people knowing of its existence, beyond doctors and researchers, will not have an impact on…



Kayla Vokolek

Creative writing grad located in LA