MILLIONS of Americans are plagued with food allergies. Depending on the severity, an allergic reaction to food can range from mild skin irritation to life threatening shock.
The problem is that the eight major food allergens — milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish — can be found on most restaurant menus and incorporated into the majority of products sold at grocery stores. To those living with this type of allergy, food becomes something to avoid rather than explore.
Kimberley Jardine, founder, owner and baker of Free Food Georgia, recognized a need for foods that were free of wheat, dairy and sugar in Savannah and its surrounding areas.
“No one is doing wheat-free and sugar-free products, not even Whole Foods or Lucky’s Market,” Jardine professes.
Free Food GA, which originated in April 2017, is a special-order bakery that focuses on sugar-free and wheat-free muffins, bread and confections.
Also, this bakery is nearly 100 percent dairy-free with various vegan offerings.
Years ago, Jardine developed neurological complications, where her memory and speech began to falter. A naturopathic doctor determined that she had a high sensitivity to wheat. Eliminating this allergen from her diet proved effective in healing her body so Jardine sought ways to make wheat-free food taste gratifying.
Given the shortage of quality wheat-free products on the market, Jardine began tweaking recipes to suit her cravings. Beginning in 2012, she compiled all the recipes into a cookbook, fueled by her journalism degree and her product’s popularity among loved ones.
Unfortunately, after moving to Savannah in 2015, Jardine lost all her work when her computer unexpectedly crashed.
While continuing to bake, Jardine became a certified reflexologist in 2016, learning about human anatomy and the body’s systems. This new health consciousness inspired her to eliminate all sugar from her diet as well.
Jardine’s wheat-free and sugar-free products began to peak the interests of locals, one person in particular being Tanya Collier, owner of Swallowtail Pines in Richmond Hill.
Collier’s request to purchase her “free” baked goods prompted Jardine to develop a business plan.
As a former small business development director, Jardine was proficient in advising small businesses on efficiency and profit margins, while maintaining a customer-centered mentality.
With Collier’s encouragement and Jardine’s expertise, Free Food Georgia was born.
Each week, Jardine posts a menu link of her fresh products on the Free Food Georgia Facebook page. The menu is broken down into three categories-sweets, muffins/cakes and breads.
Sweet confections like vegan Birdseed Brittle and vegan “Not My Momma’s Fudge” are created with recognizable wholesome ingredients.
Take the Birdseed Brittle, these coin-shaped addictive treats are made with pecans, quinoa, rolled oats, maple syrup, chia seeds, coconut sugar, cocoa nibs, coconut oil, vanilla extract and sea salt.
The fudge-like truffle on the other hand is made sweet with Medjool dates, shredded coconut, almond meal, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil and sea salt. Each cloyingly sweet treat is ultimately guilt free and healthy-ish.
As for the muffins, Jardine offers a variety of flavors including Spicy Nana, Chip Nana, Cranberry & Pecan Nana, and Chocolate Queen Cakes. Each muffin was moist and fresh with everyday ingredients that would make anyone with or without a wheat allergy beg for more.
Each fluffy “nana” muffin was made with organic rolled oats, bananas, coconut milk, local eggs, organic maple syrup, baking powder, vanilla and sea salt.
In the bread section, the Hearty Baguette is a must try. The golden crusty and chewy loaf was made with a vegan flour blend, local honey, organic virgin olive oil, organic flax meal, yeast, xanthan gum, organic apple cider vinegar, sea salt and water.
The fresh bread was delivered warm, wafting its yeasty scent around the office.
Embracing full disclosure, Jardine provides a typed ingredient list for each item, stressing the importance of knowing what you put into your body.
Free Food GA is affiliated with the Cottage Food Program, which allows its operators to produce non-potentially hazardous foods in their home kitchens. Since this home bakery does not have an official storefront, Jardine collaborates with local businesses to set up weekly pick-up locations. She also personally delivers to business locations in the Richmond Hill area for a $25 minimum.
Once a customer decides what to order, they will send an email to FreeFoodGeorgia@yahoo.com, two days prior to the drop off or pick up date.
On Tuesdays, Free Food Georgia orders are available for pick up at Game Changers Running Store in Richmond Hill from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Starting June 21, there will also be a pick-up and pop-up bakery set up at White Whale Craft Ales every Wednesday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Jardine will showcase a handful of goodies available for purchase, along with samples, in addition to special order pick-ups at this new location.
Free Food GA is looking forward to their partnership with White Whale Craft Ales, knowing the importance of small businesses sticking together to support one another. In the future, Jardine plans to collaborate with White Whale on creating of a gluten-free lager that could be incorporated into boozy beer bread.
In addition to these partnerships, Free Food GA also sources local goods, like honey from Swamp Honey and eggs from Swallowtail Pines.
When it comes to food, people with allergies should not have to sacrifice flavor and quality. Free Food Georgia sets the standard, proving that wholesome baked goods can be equally good for your health and taste buds.