Archive for December, 2011

Woman Power!

In the 60s, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, sparking the beginning of “second wave feminism,” better known as “women’s lib.”  In the 70s, Gloria Steinem brought us Ms magazine and a title all our own as she pushed the Equal Rights Amendment.  The 1980s saw Geraldine Ferraro join the national ballot as the first woman vice presidential candidate.  Women’s History Month was added to the US national calendar in the 1990s, with women’s history courses flooding college campuses.  This century has seen women explore space, break sports records, and seek the presidential nomination.  As the saying goes, we have come a long way.

As it turns out, women have had power all along. In fact, in the healthcare arena, women have 80% of the power—or more!

Here’s the story.

On November 15th, I had the privilege of attending a conference entitled Women’s Health in an Era of Change. Hosted by Katherine Keefe, Chair of Dilworth Paxson law firm’s Health Care Group, the discussion examined the impact that the healthcare reform bill is having on women.  Lynn Yeakel of Drexel University’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership led the panel discussion that included Dr. Owen Montgomery of Drexel University’s College of Medicine, Anne Morrissey of AmeriHealth and Katherine Keefe.

We all learned a lot.

One statistic that jumped out at all of us is that at least 80 % of all healthcare decisions are made by women. Got that? At least 80%. Women make these decisions for themselves and for their families, including extended families of aging parents and siblings who need assistance– the whole deal.

This means that women have the power to move that mountain that will help keep our families safe. Women can demand better care, more attention, safer products. For those with celiac or gluten sensitivity in their families, this means both an opportunity and a responsibility to seek out that diagnosis that has been overlooked, to insist that the doctors get educated about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity and to get those family members tested, like it or not.

Woman power!

80% of all healthcare decisions are made by women.

Another statistic we learned, and this time a disheartening one, is that 50% of the uninsured population is women. The healthcare reform act will move these uninsured women and their families into being covered.   This means a huge impact on the primary care physicians who will be treating the newly insured.

Dr. Montgomery suggested that reform will initiate a new era with a team approach to family medicine. Right now, there simply are not enough primary care providers in the U.S. to manage the added millions of patients who will enter the healthcare system. The very practical and viable solution is to expand the role of healthcare professionals by adding more nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants to the primary care team. Doctors will have to practice in a more collaborative way, which means that there will be more hands available to manage the patient’s health. This approach has been embraced by Drexel and by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

So, it is back to the women. All of this means that women as the key decision makers will have an even more active role in managing the “continuum of care” for themselves and their families.

Here is to your good health and to the best use of the power that is in the hands of American women.

– Nancy

Get empowered! Learn more about celiac disease and women’s health.

December 7, 2011 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

Teaching Student Chefs the Importance of Gluten-Free Training

Twice a year, I have the fortunate honor to be invited to a ‘Gluten-Free Baking Lab’ held at the Lincoln Southeast Community College Food Service/Hospitality program in Lincoln, NE. The students bake items from CIA instructor Chef Richard Coppedge’s cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking, and learn about the needs of those on a gluten-free diet.  The process starts by thoroughly cleaning the kitchen, equipment, and utensils; blending the flours (Chef Coppedge provides five different blends); pairing up; and selecting recipes from the cookbook. The baking begins. Then I arrive for the tasting and a Q & A with the students.

Gluten-free buffet

Check out the spread!

You might think it is pretty bold of me to assume that what’s being served on the plates is really safe and totally gluten-free. Well, you’d be right – if I didn’t know the lead instructor, Certified Executive Chef Brandon Harpster, is GREAT trained. In fact, six of the instructors on the foodservice staff at LSCC completed GREAT Kitchens training back in 2008.  So, I feel pretty confident in the guidance and instruction received by these young chefs.

As I arrive for the tasting, the proud students parade into the classroom with their masterpieces. I snap their pictures, and they gently place them on the table. I get a bit choked up every time I attend these labs. When I was diagnosed almost 20 years ago, I could never have imagined culinary students being exposed to gluten-free baking and embracing the challenge and opportunity. I really believe that 5-10 years from now, all culinary students will have a standard class on allergen-free baking and cooking. It will be commonplace. This generation has grown up with allergies or celiac disease; they have friends or family members who have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or allergies. Yes, there really is hope and promise in the foodservice industry. We are seeing big strides every day. It was thrilling to hear the students talk about working in restaurants that have gluten-free options, such as a successful local pizza chain and others in well-respected establishments with skilled chefs who “get gluten-free.”

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

The sampling included Strawberry Bread, Chocolate (Red) Velvet Cake minus the red food coloring, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies, Cinnabon-ish Cinnamon Rolls, Angel Food Cake, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Zucchini Pumpkin Bread. While they munched, I shared a brief description of my NFCA position, celiac disease history, and current marketplace trends. I really wanted to make sure we had time for questions because I was curious about aspiring culinary students want to know. They had some GREAT questions. Here are a few with my responses.

Student Question: Besides the obvious sources of gluten, what else do chefs need to be concerned about when preparing gluten-free meals?

Beckee’s Answer: Gluten can be hidden in unlikely places. I once learned the hard way that flour can be added to refried beans to thicken them. Gluten can be hidden in sauces, marinades, flavorings and many processed foods. Reading labels is very important, but so is knowing that gluten can be found in soup bases, soy sauce, stabilizers and thickeners.

If you work in a scratch kitchen and know your ingredients and sources, that’s only part of the answer to knowing safe gluten-free preparation. The most important skill to learn is how to prepare gluten-free foods safely because cross contamination is a huge concern to your customers. Picking up a bread knife and cutting a baked potato can turn a perfectly gluten-free option into something that can harm someone on a medically restricted gluten-free diet.  Your customers must feel confident in your expertise to serve safe options. Educating yourselves by taking GREAT Kitchens training will provide that trust and give you another tool in your culinary skills when you start hunting for jobs.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Pumpkin Bread

Gluten-Free Zucchini Pumpkin Bread - Delicious!

Student Question: What is the potential for increased sales for restaurants that “go gluten-free”?

Beckee’s Answer: One in 133 people has celiac disease, and 1 in 18 has gluten intolerance. They are the members of the party that will be making the reservations. Most diners don’t dine alone; they bring friends and family with them. If they order dishes to share, they’ll make them gluten-free. They’re loyal to those restaurants that can safely serve gluten-free and will look for the GREAT seal of approval like the GREAT Kitchens decal, logo, or a reference on their menu telling guests that training is in place. People needing gluten-free options will only increase over the next 5 years due to more awareness and diagnoses.  Advertising gluten-free options can be a differentiator in the restaurant business.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Cake

What's a celebration without some gluten-free cake?

Student Question: If you have a reaction or get sick, do you call the restaurant and let them know?

Beckee’s Answer: Excellent question. Honestly, in the past, I wasn’t consistent about doing so. I’d just take it off my list of dining options and tell my gluten-free pals to beware. However, when I started working with chefs and training restaurants, I asked if they wanted to know. Unanimously, the answer was “Yes.” How can you fix the problem if you’re not aware of it? Now, I always contact the establishment, and I encourage others to do so. I can remember talking with a general manager for a restaurant who had a gluten-free menu but no staff training. He told me they “just didn’t get many people asking for gluten-free.” Hmmm, wonder why?

The last thought that I left the class with was this: When you go out to eat or dine, what are you thinking about after you’ve order your meal? Are you thinking about your gorgeous date? The hilarious joke someone told at the table? Maybe you’re anticipating the fabulous food that will be served soon. Sometimes, people with celiac disease are solely focused on what’s happening in the kitchen. Will they make a fresh salad instead of just picking off the croutons? Will the cooks clean the grill before charring the steak? Does the restaurant really have a dedicated fryer? Through GREAT gluten-free education, all the guests at the table can enjoy the ambience, company, and great food you set before them.

Bon Appetite!

– Beckee

Learn more about gluten-free training through GREAT Kitchens at www.CeliacLearning.com/kitchens.

December 5, 2011 at 11:36 am 4 comments

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