My Budding Interest In Celiac Disease & The Prison System

January 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm 2 comments

Here at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), I am frequently the recipient of letters and information requests from individuals in prison. Many of these individuals have been diagnosed with the disease while serving time, and have almost zero access to resources on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.

This week, I received a desperate plea from a man incarcerated in California. Diagnosed just weeks ago, he expressed a need for materials that would help both him, along with the prison medical and foodservice staff, become better educated on the condition and diet.  As our organization’s mission is to empower and educate ALL individuals about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet by providing free, comprehensive resources for patients – I was more than happy to send a him an information packet.

Letter to NFCA

One of the many letters from prisoners with celiac.

I frequently take great care when putting together these packets for inmates. While I don’t excuse whatever circumstances led them prison (and believe me, I’ve Googled them), I am sympathetic to what I consider to be an incredibly vulnerable population. It’s challenging enough to receive a diagnosis and manage a gluten-free diet in our society, I cannot imagine being able to accomplish this in an environment where you truly have ZERO control over your health and diet.  I am touched and saddened by each personal story I read, and even more touched by the DOZENS of thank you notes I’ve received from prisoners after NFCA’s resources arrive at their cells.

In light of my interest and budding passion for this specific celiac population, I am inspired to further investigate what life is like for prison patients. I look forward to sharing my findings with you in an upcoming newsletter article. I hope you’ll also look forward to reading what I think will be an incredibly enlightening and interesting piece, so stay tuned!

– Whitney

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Annsley  |  January 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    I think about the institutional thing all the time. Well, not jail, but what happens when I’m in a retirement community and my mind doesn’t think well enough to take care of myself.

    I actually wonder if having untreated Celiac/gluten sensitivity led to some of the reasons the inmates are in jail in the first place . . . I certainly know how I was effected before removing gluten from my diet . . . I was definitely heading towards some kind of institutional facility . . .

  • 2. kristinakopplin  |  January 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Wow. I’ve never thought about this before and it amazes me how inconsiderate some people are. I’ve had my share of people giving me a hard time (telling me “it’s all in my head” or “not a real disease”; insisting that I go out to eat with the family/friends to restaurants that don’t accommodate to GF diets to merely watch them enjoy foods that I cannot; not emotionally supporting me; increasing the risks of cross-contamination by using my dedicated GF kitchen products; etc.). I can’t imagine what it would be like to incarcerated without the accessibility to ensure complete guidance over such a strict diet. I think what you’re doing is awesome! I wish more people would help out like you do and I wish the world knew more about the GF diet and celiac disease. Keep it up!

    If there is anything I can do, I’d be more than happy to help. Just shoot me an email 🙂


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