Meet Rhiannon: NFCA Intern and Symptoms Checklist Success Story
[A new semester means new interns at NFCA! We have an enthusiastic group, so we asked them to share their personal stories and what they hope to accomplish while working with NFCA. First up is Rhiannon.]
Hi everyone. My name is Rhiannon Brown, and I’m spending this semester interning for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). Specifically, I will be working with Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives Beckee Moreland on NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) programs.
I’ve always had an interest in foodservice, especially working with customers. I love seeing people smiling around a table with wonderful food! But being a waitress for the rest of my life didn’t sound appealing, either. I wanted to move ahead in the organizat
ions I worked for, and I realized a Foodservice Management degree might get me to where I want to be. So, I returned to my alma mater, Southeast Community College (SCC), to pursue a degree in exactly that!
I have worked diligently in school, achieving certifications from the National Restaurant Association in Food Protection Management (Manager Level Food Handlers Permit, Lancaster County, Nebraska), Inventory and Purchasing, Controlling Foodservice Costs, and Hospitality & Restaurant Management. Through all of this, I was struggling with my own health issues. I had felt sick my entire life, was told I was depressed and had a hysterectomy in my mid-30s. I HAD to figure out what was wrong with me!
Luckily, I came up NFCA’s Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist. I spent hundreds of hours doing research, reading about the digestive system, referencing and cross-referencing information that I found. Everything pointed to the fact that I may be gluten intolerant. I didn’t have health insurance, and as a student and single mom, I couldn’t get to a doctor. That is when I turned to a gluten-free diet.
I’ve felt healthier than I ever did in my 33 years, but, I realize that every single day is a battle. I know I wouldn’t want to fight a battle on my own, so why would anyone else? I made it my mission to make people aware. I have joined every mailing list and group I’ve found that relates to gluten intolerance. I talk about it with everyone I come across. All of my school projects are geared around awareness!
The one group that has been the most helpful in my battle has been NFCA. So, as you can imagine, when I found out that I was going to have the opportunity to meet someone from NFCA, I was beyond elated! In December 2011, I was in a Culinary Nutrition class at SCC that invited Beckee to speak. Her visit to SCC turned out to be the GREATest opportunity that a gal in my situation could have asked for! I stayed after class for a few moments to speak one-on-one with Beckee. She informed me of the internship opportunity and invited me to apply for it. I graciously accepted the invitation, applied, interviewed, and was awarded the internship. I have been walking on cloud 9 since the day I met Beckee! Not only because of the internship, but, because I found a local advocate to turn to when I am stumped, when I have news to share about the celiac community, or when I have ideas that could help the community! I am extremely excited for the prospects that this placement will bring!
This practicum has allowed me to complete gluten-free training through NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program. One of my goals to open a dedicated gluten-free bakery and deli, and this training has expanded my education and will increase my credibility with customers. The program even includes training tools for the staff I hire and a door decal to place on my business to let people know they can find safe gluten-free food at my deli.
I hope that I can be a catalyst for NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program. I hope that I am able to make a difference in others’ lives the same way NFCA has made a difference in mine. I hope to prove myself as a valuable asset to the organization, enough so to possibly have the opportunity to become a permanent asset!
Read more about Rhiannon’s diagnosis journey here: Rhiannon’s Story