A student in Melville who has an autoimmune disease is helping to provide a range of allergy-friendly and allergen-free foods to those in need.
AnnaBelle Deaner, an eighth-grader at West Hollow Middle School, held a school food drive this fall that collected about 600 pounds of food — ranging from gluten-free pasta to baking mixes — through an organization she created called AnnaBelle's Pantry. The food was distributed to local pantries through a partnership with Island Harvest.
Deaner, 13, was diagnosed at the age of 6 with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.
"A lot of allergen-friendly food is more expensive than other foods, so people in underprivileged areas might not be able to afford them and get the foods they need," said Deaner, who is also a student ambassador for the Celiac Disease Foundation.
In addition to donations from students and staff, Deaner received numerous food items from such businesses as Go Raw and Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods. She is holding another food drive next month at Half Hollow Hills Community Library.
Deaner is a Girl Scout, a member of her school's chorus and orchestra, and has appeared in several productions at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. For more information about AnnaBelle's Pantry, visit annabellespantry.com.