Posts tagged ‘whitney’

My Budding Interest In Celiac Disease & The Prison System

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

January 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm 2 comments

NFCA Staff: Our Biggest Accomplishments of 2011

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has accomplished a lot in 2011, but I wanted to know what my fellow co-workers thought was their biggest breakthrough of the year.

GREAT Kitchens logo

GREAT Kitchens - training restaurants across the U.S.!

For Beckee and Jennifer, our gluten-free industry team, the top highlight was adding NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens training to US Foods Resource Advantage Program. The program offers discounts and deals on various resources for the foodservice industry. Thanks to Beckee and Jennifer’s hard work, more foodservice operators, including restaurants and dining halls, can now have access to gluten-free training through GREAT Kitchens at a discount.

Beckee also is proud of the increased availability of safe, gluten-free options for students from K-12 all the way through college. NFCA’s GREAT Schools program is aiding that cause by teaching dining hall and cafeteria staff how to properly prepare gluten-free meals.

For Nancy, helping NFCA secure the landmark FDA grant for our upcoming Gluten in Medications study was her biggest accomplishment. The $50,000 grant provides much-needed funding to pioneer this new area of celiac disease research, and NFCA is thrilled to be leading the charge!

Alice echoed Nancy’s sentiments about the FDA grant, as it was a huge milestone in NFCA history. Alice also named the Philadelphia Award as her top achievement in 2011. “This is one of the most prestigious awards in Philadelphia, and it brought front page coverage to the NFCA and celiac disease,” she noted.

For Alice, the award wasn’t an end result, but a jumping off point to bring even more awareness to celiac disease and gluten-free needs.

pointed to the many collaborations and connections she formed in promoting NFCA’s Primary Care CME:

“In 2011, 306 U.S. primary care providers received training from NFCA’s Primary Care CME. Medical experts indicate that primary care physicians have the opportunity to diagnose 18 new patients per year. Based on this statistic, our records demonstrate that NFCA has had the opportunity to directly impact the lives of 5,508 patients. NFCA looks forward to continuing our professional education efforts in 2012,” she said.

Spreading the word about the CME involved a number of helpers in 2011. Quest Diagnostics disseminated more than 9,000 promotional postcards to primary care providers; individuals and support group leaders distributed 2,800 postcards to local healthcare professionals; and NFCA, along with physician advocates and celiac champions, sent 2,000 postcards to medical conference, clinics and lunch meetings extending as far as Hawaii and Norway!

Whitney cited her work with the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) as her biggest accomplishment of 2011. She stepped up at a moment’s notice and flew to Asheville, NC, to lead a gluten-free training course for 25 foodservice professionals. More than 20 restaurants in this popular tourist destination are now GREAT-trained and ready to serve gluten-free food.

Kids Central

Kids Central - our new hub for gluten-free kids and parents

For me, Kids Central was my baby, and like a proud mama, I was happy to see it take flight in October. The new microsite accomplished much of what we originally set out to do, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of many, many friends in the celiac and gluten-free community. I’ve met wonderful parents, super kids and amazing teens who were willing to share their stories and gluten-free recipes. We’ll continue to add new articles and advice as we move into 2012. In fact, I’ll be posting our first Ask the Pediatric Gastroenterologist Q&As today!

Wishing a happy and healthy New Year to all of our friends and fans!

– Cheryl

December 30, 2011 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

Home Cookin’ For The Holidays

I don’t cook a lot, but when I do, I normally try to make stuff that takes minimal time, effort, ingredients and dishes. My other prerequisite for cooking is that whatever I make, it has to taste great as leftovers. I’m always making enough food to eat for multiple meals throughout the week.

Even with ALL those constraints, there are still plenty of delicious options!

With the holiday season upon us, I’m really into making warm, hearty, comfort foods. Last night I made these really yummy, naturally gluten-free, roasted potatoes with onion and rosemary. They would make a wonderful side dish for your big family turkey day dinner, but can also easily be made as breakfast or brunch option too!

Rosemary is actually one of the wonderful seasonal scents highlighted in our Fall Flavors Cooking and Entertaining Guide from NFCA and Thai Kitchen. This recipe will certainly make your entire kitchen smell just fantastic.

Whitney’s Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Onion


  • Red potatoes
  • Onion *any kind will do, but I really love the sweet varieties, particularly vidalia
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Rosemary Leaves, fresh or dried
  • Garlic Salt
  • Black Pepper


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Wash and chop potatoes and onion, place into large mixing bowl
  • Drizzle olive oil over potato and onion mix and gradually add rosemary, garlic salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything until evenly coated.
  • Spread potato mixture onto a baking tray, cook until tender. Usually takes about 45mins or so depending on the amount you’re cooking.
  • Stir/flip them occasionally to allow potatoes to cook more evenly and prevent them from sticking to the tray.

A shot of the batch I made last night, just before they went into the oven!

If I’m making these potatoes for breakfast or brunch, I usually like to cook them a little longer so they’re slightly burnt/crispy.  But if you decide to make this as a dinner side dish, you can certainly add different vegetables like celery or carrots into the mix.

So from my tiny apartment kitchen to yours, have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. I can’t wait to read about all the fantastic gluten-free feasts everyone is undoubtedly already busy preparing!

– Whitney

November 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Taste of Asheville: Part 1

When NFCA first hired me back in 2008, my work revolved around the support and development of 3 major activities:

Now, for someone who had zero experience in the restaurant and foodservice industry, being responsible for the administration and national launch of this major NFCA program was an overwhelming prospect.

Fortunately, as a key member of the GREAT Kitchens team, I had the opportunity to represent NFCA at so many key industry conferences, presentations and events. Listening and networking with chefs, restaurateurs, and foodservice professionals across the country helped me overcome my steep learning curve and gain valuable insight into the industry. I learned so much in those first 2 years that eventually I became an instructor, and was able to conduct GREAT training presentations all on my own, something I found to be surprisingly fun and gratifying!

These days, while my work with GREAT mainly centers around PR, communications, and industry conference/presentation preparation – every now and then I get the opportunity to ‘pinch hit’ for Beckee as a guest instructor on the educational side.

Asheville, NC- Picturesque, isn't it?

So, it was a delightful surprise when, earlier this month, Beckee asked me to fill in for her in Asheville, NC, where the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) had recruited 25 members to undergo GREAT Training!

While I had never been before, I was already aware of Asheville’s incredible reputation, particularly as a vacation destination. And boy, the city did not disappoint!

From the breathtaking scenery, fantastic food (which I’ll cover in a later post) and friendly people – I can’t say enough about my WONDERFUL visit. I can’t WAIT to go back.  My only regret was not being able to stay for the Asheville gluten-free fair hosted by Ingles and their passionate dietitian, Leah McGrath.

Asheville, NC definitely has my vote for next year’s top Celiac Aware Cities, that’s for sure!

I don’t need to go into too much detail about how necessary proper training is within the foodservice industry, and the importance of GREAT Kitchens in educating and raising awareness. Most of you already know!

My Hotel: The Grove Park Inn

I was particularly moved by Savvy Celiac’s recent feature on GREAT, and touched by author Amy Leger’s encouraging words about the program and its mission.  Click here to read her review of GREAT and why restaurant education is so critical for our community.

With that said, AIR and its members are committed to providing celiacs with safe and delicious cuisine and making Asheville a gluten-free destination for celiacs across the country.  And now, with 25 GREAT Trained kitchens, I encourage EVERYONE to visit Asheville and support this wonderful, caring and unbelievably TASTY group of establishments.

To check out the FULL List of GREAT Trained Restaurants I trained in Asheville, NC – Visit Did You Hear? on

You can also go to to learn more about my new favorite city.

Stay tuned for my next post on the fabulous gluten-free cuisine I experienced on my trip!

May 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm 1 comment

Whitney & Kristin’s Week Long ‘Opening Day’ Celebration

Phandemonium at the Phillies Game

While my baseball fandom (particularly when it comes to the Philadelphia Phillies) has already been well chronicled on the staff blog, last week marked the beginning of what is sure to be four months of rabid insanity and delusion…MLB Opening Day!

Kristin and I chose to celebrate the entire week in style by attending not one, but two Phillies games – a Tuesday, March 29th pre-season game verses the Pittsburgh Pirates, and on Saturday, April 1st, to watch the Fightin’ Phils face off against the Houston Astros.

For Phillies fans, the 2011 World Series campaign is already off to a great start, our home team swept the Astros and will start the season at 3-0 for the first time since 1970.

Needless to say, we’ve got some rather ‘High Hopes’ for our team at the moment.

Opening Day Phillies Fever

On a related note, it seems that more and more MLB teams are welcoming gluten-free baseball fans this season by ramping up their stadium food options. Here’s just a smattering of teams that have already made headlines this year:

St. Louis (Cardinals)

Florida (Tampa Bay Rays)

Chicago (Cubs)

San Francisco (Giants)

And of course, the entire NFCA office is looking forward to hosting TWO Celiac Disease Awareness Nights with MLB Teams this season – Friday, May 27th with the New York Mets, and Friday, July 8th with the Philadelphia Phillies.

So much gluten-free fun to come this summer!


April 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

A Gluten-free Birthday Celebration at NFCA Headquarters

Birthday Girl Opening Gifts - does she look excited or what?

Today the NFCA office gathered together for one of our special birthday lunches. The guest of honor? Our very own Healthcare Communications Manager Kristin Voorhees!

I so love these rare occasions when we all sit down together for a half hour or so to eat, open presents, and enjoy each other’s company. Today’s lunch celebrating Kristin’s 26th was particularly special for me, because we have become such close friends both inside and out of the NFCA office.

Over today’s lunch of sushi and avocado salad, Kristin opened some fantastic birthday gifts from the gang, including a drop dead gorgeous cookbook from Beckee, cleverly named “Food Porn Daily”.

(Having recently released our Sex and the Celiac video, the group got a chuckle out of the funny…and timely…title!)

Beckee's Fantastic, Funny, Thoughtful Gift.

Celebrating a birthday with a celiac can sometimes be a challenge, especially when it comes to the cake! I took on the role of finding one of Kristin’s all time favorites, and sadly, something she hasn’t had since being diagnosed with celiac disease: gluten-free carrot cake.

Gluten-free carrot cake, the birthday girl's favorite.

Fortunately for me, the wonderful folks at Sweet Freedom Bakery were able to make Kristin’s birthday wish come true, and we all enjoyed a decadent 2 layers of carrot, coconut, frosted, gluten-free goodness.

Special thanks go out to Heather Esposito and the Sweet Freedom Bakery team for making my friend’s birthday celebration a gluten-free success.

If only I could have them come to my kitchen to help with the dinner party I’m throwing for Kristin on Friday night – I am very nervous about cooking my first gluten-free lasagna!

a gluten-free celebration courtesy of Sweet Freedom Bakery

February 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm 3 comments

Schar USA Groundbreaking: My Day Supporting & Reporting

A major milestone in US gluten-free food industry was made this week as Schar USA, the American based division of leading gluten-free manufacturer, Dr. Schar Srl., broke ground on their first stateside gluten-free manufacturing facility.

I had the privilege of representing NFCA at the groundbreaking event, and was thrilled to attend in support of one of our organization’s dedicated sponsors!

The future site of gluten-free heaven, the Schar USA plant!

Schar has been a huge part of NFCA’s efforts to raise gluten-free awareness in the food industry, participating in our NRA Showcase Pavilion, Northwest Arkansas Education Day, and Appetite for Awareness events.

Personally, I’ve had the honor of developing a close relationship with Schar USA RD, NFCA Medical Advisory Board Member, and celiac rock star, Ann Lee. Recently, Ann and I worked together on NFCA’s Getting Started Guide , making needed updates and revisions to this critical patient resource.

The Schar team. Check out NFCA fans Ann Lee, RD (red hat), and VP Donna George (tan coat).

While I was able to Tweet many of the exciting details in real time (@whitneyE1216), here’s a recap and some fast facts about Schar USA’s new facility:

  • Dr. Schar opened its US commercial office back in 2007 and currently distributes 32 gluten-free products nationwide (compared to the 200+ they distribute in Europe).
  • Only 2 Schar products distributed in the US are manufactured stateside (since 2009), at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, NJ, The rest are shipped from Germany.
  • Schar USA plans to open their first US based manufacturing plant in March 2012 – that’s about 1 year from now!
  • The 15+ million dollar facility will be 50,000 square feet and bring 51 new jobs to the Gloucester Country economy in the next 2-3 years, with the potential for 500 more jobs in the years following.

You can read more about the Schar USA manufacturing plant groundbreaking on There were many Gloucester County officials in attendance, even the Mayor of Logan, praising Schar for bringing a boost to the local economy and a story to Jersey that doesn’t involve…‘Those kids from the Shore’.

Schar CEO Hannes Berger, just before our introduction!

The absolute best part of the day was meeting Schar CEO Hannes Berger, who traveled all the way from Italy to attend the event!

During his presentation, Mr. Berger talked extensively (and accurately!) about the rapidly growing gluten-free market and expanding celiac and gluten intolerant population in the US. He spoke with incredible sincerity and conviction as he discussed Schar’s passion and commitment for serving our gluten-free community by producing safe and delicious products.

“Our aim with this facility is to bring innovative, tailor-made products for the U.S. celiac population to market,” he said during his speech.

Speaking with him 1 on 1 following event was fantastic. He was incredibly interested in NFCA’s work, and appreciative of our organization’s role in helping to make Schar products available in Wal-Mart Stores across the country!

He also expressed his overwhelming gratitude for the support of the entire US gluten-free community, and confessed that our demand and passion for Schar products was the sole reason for the company’s decision to build a dedicated US facility. He plans to returns to New Jersey in a few months to check on the construction progress, and then a year from now to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony.

32 and counting....we can't wait for Schar gluten-free bagels.

Finally, Mr. Berger was excited to report that a variety of NEW Schar products will be available in the US this year, including cheese nips, hot dog buns and BAGELS, which will be fortified just like popular wheat based breads!

In all, I was delighted to be standing on a cold, muddy patch of land for such a lively celebration. While it may not have looked like much to outsiders, that vacant lot represented the future that Schar, NFCA, and celiacs everywhere envision: one of unlimited possibility and safe, widely available gluten-free food.


January 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm 2 comments

A Merry CliffMas in Philadelphia

While our work as a national organization is spent communicating with the general public, healthcare professionals and food industry experts across all 50 states, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) has always had a special focus on the Philadelphia region given our headquarters location.

Anyone who is remotely familiar with major league sports knows that Philadelphia fans are special. We’re passionate, dedicated and fiercely loyal. (In fact, Whitney openly admits that one of her top daily Google searches is Cliff Lee, despite the trade to the Seattle Mariners in 2009. And Kristin? Her computer’s background is frequently home to a certain Phillies second base player).

Cliff Lee Daily News Cover

Whitney's Desk on Cliffmas Day!

So you can imagine our feelings when late Monday night the news broke that the Philadelphia Phillies made an offer to pitcher Cliff Lee. Our anxiety and excitement over the potential of Cliff Lee returning to Philadelphia was at an all time high. Rather than hitting the sack in preparation for a hard day’s work, we continued to email, text and phone one another into the wee hours of the morning. The possibility of the All-Star lefty returning to our hometown was just too much to bear. At the time, we compared it to waiting up for Santa in anticipation of our Christmas gifts.

Little did we know that in fact this night would become Christmas Eve for the Philadelphia region. Just after midnight it was announced that the Phillies had signed Lee for a five year deal. And for those fans that managed to get to bed on time, missing out on any Cliff Lee news, Christmas truly arrived 11 days early.

Now we REALLY can’t wait till July 8th – when NFCA hosts Celiac Awareness Night with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Hopefully we will get to see Cliff Lee in action, mark your calendars and get ready to join us!

Merry Cliffmas.

-Whitney & Kristin

December 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm 1 comment

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