May is not just the month when wearing white comes back into style and everyone’s firing up the barbeque. The month of May is also Celiac Awareness Month, a time period during which extra public attention is drawn to this vastly underdiagnosed disease that affects 1 in 133 Americans.
Celiac Awareness Month was pioneered by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), a national organization focusing on educating the public about celiac disease. Well, they’ve done a pretty good job because now you can find Celiac Awareness Month being celebrated across the entire country!
With all of the exciting promotions and events going on during the month, you’re probably wondering where to get started. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up 5 ways to instantly get involved right from your computer!
- Enter to Win the Gluten-Free Pantry Raid: If you donate $20 or more to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness this month, you’ll be entered to win a “raid” on your gluten-free pantry! The first prize winner will win a gluten-free shopping spree led by the NFCA Founder and President Alice Bast (valued at $500) as well as an in-home consultation with a registered dietitian who specializes in the gluten-free diet (valued at $2,500)! To enter to win, or to see the amazing prizes lined up for second and third place, click here.
- Get a Dollar, Give a Dollar with Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery: Rudi’s “Spread the Bread” campaign for celiac awareness month is a great way to donate money while saving on Rudi’s delicious products. After donating $1 to the gluten-free charity of your choice, you will be able to download a coupon for $1 off of any Rudi’s products. Click here to check it out.
- Find a Celiac Walk in Your Area: Making Tracks for Celiacs organizes fundraising walks that take place all over the country to raise funds for the Center for Celiac Research. These are great opportunities to meet other celiacs in your area, and usually there are great gluten-free treats for participants as well. If there aren’t any official walks in your area, there are instructions on how to organize one yourself. Click here for more details.
- Learn More About Celiac Disease: Celiac disease is a lifestyle. Not only is the gluten-free diet extremely difficult and expensive to adhere to, but it often isn’t enough by itself. Make sure to eat a healthy diet and address potential nutrient deficiencies.
- Get Connected on Gluten-Free Faces: Gluten-Free Faces is a social networking site just for people on a gluten-free diet! Its members have access to all kinds of information, forums and tools that make following a gluten-free diet much, much easier. Sign up here; membership is free!
Looking for Deeper Involvement in Celiac Awareness Month 2012?
Live events you might find in your community include cooking demonstrations, fundraising drives, gluten-free vendor fairs, speakers, and more. Getting connected with your local celiac support group will help you learn about happenings in your home town.
If you can’t find a celiac awareness event in your area, plan one yourself! Get together with a friend or two and plan something to bring knowledge to the general public or to provide support to people living with celiac disease.
Bring an author of a gluten-free cookbook to your local bookstore, arrange a gluten-free dinner at a trusted local restaurant, submit an op-ed to your local newspaper about the importance of celiac screenings, or host a gluten-free cookie exchange, as a few ideas. You might even find a health food store, grocery store, gluten-free food manufacturer, hospital or gastreoenterology practice that’s interested in co-sponsoring your event.
In addition to encouraging celiac testing and raising money for celiac research, Celiac Awareness Month has often been used to reach out to government officials and bring the needs of the celiac and food allergy communities to the awareness of politicians.
In 2011, a widely-publicized Gluten-Free Summit in Washington, DC was held in honor of Celiac Awareness Month to bring attention to the need for accurate gluten-free labeling of food products. This event brought great public awareness to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). An FDA commissioner even addressed the group, telling them “you have gotten our attention, FDA is now listening.”
The lobbying summit is just one example of how celiac awareness makes a difference. It effects what funding is allocated for celiac research, how seriously food allergen labeling laws are taken by lawmakers, what support is available, and how the market responds with new gluten-free products. Just by participating in a Celiac Awareness Month event, you can help bring about positive changes for celiacs worldwide. Awareness and early diagnosis are important.
What will you do this May to help spread the word about celiac disease and gluten-free living?