Posts tagged ‘Appetite for Awareness’

Appetite for Awareness – Truly Philadelphia’s Premier Gluten-Free Food Fest

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.

Appetite for Awareness: National Foundation for Celiac Awareness Store

The first ever NFCA store premiered at Appetite for Awareness

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.

Appetite for Awareness:  Gluten-Free Vendor Tables

The restaurants and chefs gearing up for the crowds

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.

Appetite for Awareness- Line for Registration

The line to get into Appetite for Awareness wrapped all the way around the outside of the building!

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.

Appetite for Awareness: Tonya's Gluten-Free Products: Soft Pretzels

People were talking about how excited they were to have their first soft pretzel in years.

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.

Appetite for Awareness: Honoree Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly

Michael accepting his award from NFCA Founder & President Alice Bast. (PS- isn’t that staircase great?)

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!

– Alicia

September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am 4 comments

Helping Hands—Lots of Them!

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!

Helping Hands- Lots of Them: Appetite for Awareness Volunteers

Our “helping hands” at Appetite for Awareness 2010

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.

Helps Hands- Lots of Them: Face Painting

From face painting to staffing the NFCA store, our wonderful volunteers do it all!

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.

Helping Hands- Lots of Them:  NFCA Volunteers

NFCA volunteers help registration run smoothly.

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!

– Nancy

September 18, 2012 at 10:28 am 2 comments

Is Your City a Gluten-Free Place to Be?

When I learned that Washington DC and surrounding suburbs had been named the “World’s Most Celiac-Friendly Destination” by GlutenFreeTravelSite.com, I can’t say I was surprised. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) hosted DC Gluten-Free Cooking Sprees in 2007 and 2009, so we knew the area’s chefs had taken an interest in celiac needs.  Combine that with the gluten-free offerings at Washington Nationals games, the call for healthier food from the White House and the recent nod to Firefly’s gluten-free prowess on CNN.com, and it’s pretty clear they’re on the right track.

Gluten-free tacos

How could you say no to a gluten-free dish like this?

Still, I can’t help but feel hurt for my fellow Philadelphians. While NFCA is a national organization, the staff has helped turn Philly into a celiac-friendly community, and we’d like the area’s gluten-free gourmets to get some recognition. We’re sure you feel the same way about your favorite eateries.

Fortunately, that hint of jealousy is a good sign. It means more restaurants are recognizing special dietary needs, both in metropolitan areas and beyond.  With just a quick Google search, we can read about restaurants in Franklin, TN, going gluten-free or how Subway is testing gluten-free rolls in Texas. Who knows? Maybe next year, the “World’s Most Celiac-Friendly Destination” will be aboard cruise ships.

As for the NFCA crew, we get to celebrate the gluten-free lifestyle both in Philly and across the country at Appetite for Awareness, thanks to participation from area restaurants and nationwide vendors. And the contest? Well, GlutenFreeTravelSite.com bases its decision on user reviews, so the power is in your hands.

Which city do you consider the “World’s Most Celiac-Friendly Destination”? What makes it so accommodating?

-Cheryl

January 19, 2011 at 3:57 pm 2 comments


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