Tricia Thompson, MS, RD is a nutrition consultant, author and speaker specializing in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. She is the author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide and has a MS degree in nutrition from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts and a BA degree in English Literature from Middlebury College in Vermont.

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Living Gluten-Free

by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, The Gluten-Free Dietitian

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The Palm Beach County Celiac Disease Support Group, under the direction of Phyllis Kessler, has started a fabulous and much-needed new program called GFFAP which stands for Gluten Free Food Assistance Program. Individuals with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis who live at or below the poverty line will be provided with $25 a month to purchase gluten-free food at designated area stores.

If you live in the Palm Beach County area and are interested in this program, please visit the website of the PBC support group pbcceliacsupportgroup.org.

In the hopes that more celiac disease support groups might follow the lead of Palm Beach County, Phyllis graciously agreed to answer some questions.

What made you decide to start GFFAP?
I was shopping for gluten-free Italian bread which is very costly. It’s one of my few splurges. I was standing in line waiting to pay and asked myself, “What do people do if they can’t afford the high prices of everyday gluten free foods?” I answered that question in about a second -- they go without. I couldn’t imagine people with celiac disease not eating gluten-free food for lack of money. That’s how the whole idea started.

All the support groups have fundraisers to help raise the awareness of celiac disease. With this program we’re actually helping individuals in need. Yes, raising awareness is paramount but helping people during hard times, one-on-one, is priceless.

Are there plans to expand the program?
For the first year we are going to offer the program to 30 people or families. In 2010 our goal is to reach 60 people or families.

What kind of response have you had so far?
We are just starting to spread the news and would love for the local newspapers to pick up the story.

How would you suggest other support groups go about starting their own program?
First, you must raise the funds you’re going to need. You don’t want to offer the program without having the necessary money in the bank. Then I’d suggest starting small. Offer the program to your members first before offering it to the general public. You also need to find stores that are willing to bill your group monthly and keep track of people assigned to their stores for the program. We selected four stores based on the geography of our group.

Kudos to Phyllis and the PBC Celiac Disease Support Group!

Tricia Thompson, M.S., RD is a nutrition consultant, author and speaker specializing in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. She is the author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide (McGraw-Hill) and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Eating (Penguin Group). For more information, visit www.glutenfreedietitian.com.

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For a copy of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide click here.

@ 2:13pm ET on March 6, 2009
What a great idea! Another avenue would be to work with existing food pantries. I know from experience that many [most?] food pantries do not have GF items to offer.

I wonder how many...instead of going without - which is bad enough - resort to eating gluten versions due to the cost or to stretch a dollar.

Keep up the good work Phyllis!!


@ 1:34am ET on October 3, 2009
Very nice information. Gluten is a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. These exist, conjoined with starch, in the endosperms of some grass-related grains, notably wheat, rye, and barley. Gliadin and glutenin compose about 80% of the protein contained in wheat seed. Being insoluble in water, they can be purified by washing away the associated starch. Worldwide, gluten is an important source of nutritional protein, both in foods prepared directly from sources containing it, and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein. I am a designer of wedding jewelry and do a lot of thing, almost all the accessories of the bridal bouquets as well. Recently I got a new idea of the wedding invitation wording in my mind, I did implement it and get the very impressive results. The seeds of most flowering plants have endosperms with stored protein to nourish embryonic plants during germination, but true gluten, with gliadin and glutenin, is limited to certain members of the grass family. The stored proteins of maize and rice are sometimes called glutens, but their proteins differ from wheat gluten by lacking gliadin. The glutenin in wheat flour gives kneaded dough its elasticity, allows leavening and contributes chewiness to baked products like bagels.

Although wheat supplies much of the world's dietary protein and food supply, as much as 0.5% to 1% of the population of the United States has celiac disease, a condition which results from an adverse immune system response to gluten.[1][2] The manifestations of celiac disease range from no symptoms to malabsorption of nutrients with involvement of multiple organ systems. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.

@ 1:14am ET on December 3, 2009
I'm thrilled to read about this program after hearing about it somewhere on the internet this summer. Would love an update. I'm initiating a Gluten Free Food Pantry at House of Neighborly Service in Loveland,CO north of Denver. I've been trying to find out if there are any others around the nation. This will become part of the regular process and not just driven by a volunteer. Our Dedication and Ribbon Cutting are Tuesday, December 8 from 4 - 6 pm. A local gluten free food manufacturer from Denver, Sandwich Petals by Raquelita's Tortillas, is donating their gluten free flatbread. Raquelita's is also challenging other small and large GF manufacturers to donate on a regular basis. It's pretty exciting. This food pantry will be the first of it's kind. We're using it as a prototype to establish similar food banks across the country. I'd love it if you could do a blog about it!

Gluten Free Dee

@ 10:13am ET on December 4, 2009
Hi Dee,

Congratulations on starting a gluten-free food pantry! I would love to blog about your program. How should I get in touch with you?



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