Archive for September, 2012
Appetite for Awareness 2012 is over, but the office is still buzzing with excitement. When you focus on preparing for an event for months and months, you can’t help but feel a sense of relief and happiness over the success of the event.
I joined the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team back in May, so this was my first time at Appetite for Awareness. Leading up to the event, I attended planning and update meetings and absorbed all the fine details that go into coordinating an event of this size. Last week, NFCA staff and our wonderful event planners, Phyllis and Ed, went over the final plans, and I thought I knew what the event had in store for all its gluten-free guests. I never could have imagined how big Appetite for Awareness really could be, and how much it could mean to the community.
The venue was the Historic Strawbridge Building in Center City, Philadelphia. For those of you who have never seen it, the building is unbelievably beautiful. It used to be the Strawbridge & Clothier building, but was just converted into a venue for special events. It has that historic look to it, with the grand staircase in the back, low hanging, bright chandeliers, and a working fountain in the walkway that divides the massive floor space. On Sunday, tables snaked through the main hall, loaded with vendor tables all handing out gluten-free samples to the 1,500 attendees.
So here’s how Appetite for Awareness goes: You come through the door, grab your NFCA tote bag and start eating! All of the vendors and restaurants get their own table and they serve only gluten-free food. Even better, all of the restaurants in attendance are trained by NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program, a training course that teaches chefs all the ins and outs of preparing gluten-free food safely. This is what makes Appetite for Awareness so special. From the pasta samples served by the restaurants, to the brews chilling in the beer garden, it’s all gluten-free. There are no questions to ask your server. There are no concerns about cross-contamination, because nothing containing gluten comes through the door. Everyone there knows what the gluten-free diet is and why it’s so important to those living with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. For once, people on the lifelong gluten-free diet can just relax, eat and have a good time without making special preparations, calling ahead or packing their own snacks.
I spent most of the day walking through the Strawbridge building, snapping photos, live tweeting from the event, and doing Twitter giveaways. (Shout out to Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple & Crunchmaster, Blue Diamond and PJ’s Beef Steak for providing us with the gluten-free giveaway items. You guys rock!)
I didn’t get to try all of the dishes, but from the massive lines of people eagerly devouring their samples while reaching for another one, I know the food was delicious. A returning favorite were the soft pretzels from Tonya’s Gluten-Free Products, which earned rave reviews at Appetite for Awareness 2010, too. I saw people running to go have a pretzel or two (or three or four). Kids were covered in pizza sauce, and sticky fingers were everywhere. It was an awesome sight.
Personally, I was super excited to meet the people that I talk to on social media all the time. I met Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun, Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple, and the Appetite for Awareness honoree himself, Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly.
NFCA honored Michael Savett at the event for his major contributions to the gluten-free community living in the Philadelphia area. When his son was diagnosed with celiac, Michael started teaching restaurants about the gluten-free diet and kept track of the restaurants that could cater to his son’s special dietary needs. Instead of keeping the information to himself, Michael started Gluten Free Philly for everyone in the area to benefit from. A driving force in creating more availability for gluten-free options, NFCA would once again like to thank and congratulate Michael for his efforts.
Check out the tribute video NFCA made (with the help of Michael’s friends and family) to say thank you.
I had a blast at Appetite for Awareness 2012, and based on the tweets and Facebook comments, it seems like everyone who attended agrees. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors, the support of the NFCA board and advisory council members, and of course, our amazing volunteers and staff who put in countless hours to make Appetite for Awareness 2012 a fun and safe event for the gluten-free community.
Visit the NFCA Facebook page to see some of my snapshots from the event and stay tuned for the professional photographer’s pictures to come. While you’re visiting the Facebook page, tell us your favorite part of Appetite for Awareness!
There are so many people to thank and recognize for their contributions to Appetite for Awareness, especially Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, KYW Newsradio 1060, PREIT, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington and West Chester. Click here to see all of our amazing sponsors and participating restaurants and vendors.
Thanks to all who came out to make Appetite for Awareness such a memorable event!
It’s time for NFCA’s Appetite for Awareness!
The NFCA Team is very excited about the 2012 edition of this signature event. I can’t wait to see which doctors are paired with which restaurant to prepare and offer true gluten-free delights to our guests. Appetite for Awareness brings out the gourmet in most of us as we table hop between the booths of some of the best restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Today, I learned that there will be about 60 exhibitors who are ready to highlight the latest gluten-free products and distribute educational materials to all attendees. Add the Beer Garden with flat screen TVs and “the game,” the Children’s Pavilion with games for the whole family, and cooking demos for the Julia Child in each of us, and you have quite an afternoon!
How does the NFCA Team make all of this happen? The short answer is, we don’t. Well, more correctly, we don’t do it alone. Each year, a small army of volunteers puts on their Appetite for Awareness T-shirts and jumps in to help.
Our guests will meet them all, from manning the registration desk to helping at the NFCA Shop to selling tickets for the drawings (including a lease on a Mercedes-Benz!) and much, much more. This volunteer corps is an essential ingredient in the success of each and every Appetite for Awareness that NFCA has held over the years.
This year, over 75 volunteers plus a cadre of students will take the floor to make this the best event ever. Some are first-timers who will be amazed and others are old hands who know the ropes and always are enthusiastic.
If we held a contest for the volunteer who traveled the greatest distance to get to the Historic Strawbridge Building, Cecelia Bonaduce from Baltimore probably would win (plus, she originally hails from California). Most years as an Appetite for Awareness volunteer? Probably Karen Dalrymple and Donna Sawka. Husband and wife teams — Jen and Kenny Arters, Judy and Mike Paul, Eva and Marv Schlanger. More family ties — Patti and Jessica Townsend, Amanda and Sam Beeler, Jody and Bruce Finkel, Sandy and Rachel Cogan, Eileen and Jim Grady. And, organizing this whole team—Julie Cooper. Amazing!
Looking forward to a great time!
Celebrate Celiac Awareness Day
Today is National Celiac Awareness Day, and I for one am incredibly excited. Our mission at NFCA is to raise awareness of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, so a day dedicated solely to our mission is pretty exciting.
We are celebrating Celiac Awareness Day by announcing the Grand Prize winner of our first-ever Gluten-Free Pantry Raid. (Meet the winner here.) Our friend Jehangir Mehta who was a finalist on “Next Iron Chef” and will compete again in the upcoming season, is hosting a Celiac Awareness Day dinner at his New York City Restaurant, Mehtaphor. You can join in on the celebration, too! Stuck for an idea? Check out these ways to do your part to raise celiac awareness.
Share the Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist
This one is simple. Head to NFCA’s website and download the Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist. Print it out and give to your friends and family, or share the link through e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or whatever social networking site you prefer. An estimated 3 million Americans are living with celiac disease, but 85% of them remain misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. By sharing the symptoms checklist, you can make a huge difference in the lives of people who may still be undiagnosed!
Bake a Gluten-Free Cake
Or cupcake. Share your gluten-free creation with your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, whoever! Your delicious cake will be a big hit and will open up the door to talking to people about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.
Green is the official color for celiac disease, so sport a green shirt, tie, dress, shoes, or whatever green accessory you can get your hands on. Be sure to tell everyone why you’re rocking your green gear.
Change Your Profile Pictures
Change your Facebook or Twitter photo to the NFCA logo (you can grab it from our Facebook page) or upload a picture of yourself decked out in your green gear. Then…
Update Your Status
Tell all your friends that it’s Celiac Awareness Day by updating your status and telling them so. You can even toss in a few facts to help people understand the autoimmune disease:
- Celiac disease affects 1 in 133 Americans, but 85% of them are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
- There are no pharmaceutical cures for celiac. The only treatment available is a gluten-free diet.
- On average, it takes 6-10 years for a person with celiac disease to get an accurate diagnosis in the United States.
Get more fast facts here.
Buy a Ticket for Appetite for Awareness
Appetite for Awareness is NFCA’s signature gluten-free event hosted at the Historic Strawbridge Building in Center City, Philadelphia on September 23. The event is packed with gluten-free food, live chef demos, giveaways and free samples from local vendors. If you don’t live in the Philly area, you can still support NFCA with a donation (even a dollar helps!) or sign up for the newsletter so you can stay on top of all the latest celiac and gluten-free news.
Make a Celiac Advocate a Health Hero
Our founder Alice Bast is a semi-finalist in the Be Well Philly Health Hero Challenge. It’s a voting contest from Philadelphia magazine’s health blog that honors people making a contribution to health in the Philly area. Even if you don’t live in Philly, you can still vote. A win for Alice would help launch celiac into the spotlight even more. Voting only takes a minute and you can vote for her once daily until Monday, September 17.
Experiment with New Gluten-Free Ingredients
Think outside the box with your recipes and try using a different ingredient that you’ve never tried before. There are a lot of delicious and nutritious gluten-free recipes out there that go beyond plain ol’ chicken and veggies. NFCA has entire recipe boxes dedicated to giving you some gluten-free cooking inspiration. Invite your friends over to share in the cooking experiment and use it as a chance to talk to them about celiac disease.
So what will you do for Celiac Awareness Day? Leave a comment or tell me on Facebook.
Happy Celiac Awareness Day!