Friday Finds a Gluten-Free Foodbank

by Maggie on December 4, 2009

I have been on Twitter for a while now.  There are all sorts of tricks you can do to get followers (yes, it’s sort of like high school all over again).  The point for me is to get followers so they will read my blog and take me all the way to the New York Times Bestseller List when I release my first Gluten-Free cookbook.  Okay, that’s maybe a long-term plan. For now I just want some tweeps (twittter people) to read my blog and spread the word to other moms or people who would like to (or need to) bake gluten-free.

So the ettiquette on twitter is for moms to follow moms, and bloggers to follow bloggers, and gluten-free tweeps to follow gluten-free tweeps.  And this is how I came across Gluten Free Dee and her Gluten-Free Foodbank.  She followed me so I followed her back – us gluten-free tweeps need to stick together.

A couple of days ago Dee posted a tweet that grabbed my attention; it was about a gluten-free food bank celebration in her hometown of Loveland, CO on Tuesday, December 8th.

As some of you probably know, gluten-free living is very expensive.  Loaves of bread can range from five dollars to eight dollars.  Imagine feeding a family at that price – and don’t forget that gluten-free bread is often smaller than wheat breads, and it’s rarely fresh.

I was so curious about Dee’s venture that I just had to ask her some questions.  Below you’ll find my first interview at She Let Them Cake.  I am very excited about this and I hope you enjoy reading about this amazing woman and all that she has done, and continues to do, for the Celiac community.  It’s a long post today, but definitely a worthwhile read.

1.     Tell us a little bit about your life and the gluten-free diet.

I’ve reemerged in the gluten free world after a long absence.  I’ve been gluten free 17 years and was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis (my nervous rash) after delivering my youngest child.  I had had problems with constipation and bloating my whole life.  I did feel better one time when I was only eating one slice of bread a day and fruits and vegetables exclusively.  When I was finally diagnosed I had gray ashen skin, sunken eyes and low brain function (although some still claim I have low brain function – I know it’s not true!) By biopsy showed no villi.  Everything I ate fermented in my gut.  When I went to the bathroom the toilet was filled with white foam. I was extremely malnourished.  I lost 20 pounds in about two weeks.  I got back into my pre-pregnant jeans and this NEVER happened after I had my previous two babies.

One of my three kids, Jessica, has absolutely no issues with gluten.  Kaitlyn, says gluten is not a problem for her but she has a lot of digestive issues.  Her blood test in 4th grade, when she was following my diet, showed no antigens. Duh! She had almost no gluten in her system. ARG! My oldest, Tyson, has Celiac Disease.

I was one of the co-founders of the CSA Support Group in Northern Colorado 17 years ago in which I was very active for about a decade. I’m honored to have recently become the Senior Advisor to a group of gluten free young adults in Northern Colorado. I’m really too old to be in the group so taking on the title of “Senior Advisor” gave me an in even though I’ve never been called a senior anything before outside of a school setting!  It’s so worth it to hang out with some of the young women in the group!

I’m an entrepreneur with a thriving business as a Gluten Free Product Ambassador “Connecting GREAT Gluten Free Products and Services to GREATful ConsumersTM” I also do Social Media Consulting for companies of various sizes.  I really just connect people I a variety of ways and I’ve done that all my life.  The only difference is that I finally have a way to get paid for doing good things.  How exciting is that! My innovative, integrity based, excellence oriented clients include: Gluten Free Sandwich Petals (flatbread) by Raquelita’s Tortillas in Denver; Glow Gluten Free Cookies out of NY, NY; Einstein Bros Bagels; Gluten Free Essentials (mixes) out of Kansas; Norlander’s Original Sauces (GF teriyaki and mesquite).  It’s great to be so appreciated and valued by amazing entrepreneurs!

2.     Are there any GF brands out there that you couldn’t live without?

~Pamela’s was one of the first brands I was exposed to, that was worth eating, 17 years ago.  We always have to have Pamela’s baking mix in the house.  My non-Celiac husband, Harrison, uses it exclusively for pancakes.  We’ve even established traditions eating Pamela’s pancakes topped with cherry pie filling and whipped cream for holiday breakfasts.

~I will NEVER live without my Nutrilite Supplements again.  Last year in the spring and fall I was unemployed and money was tight.  Sadly, the life giving Double X Vitamins/Minerals/Phytonutrients and Spray Echinacea were no longer an option and I didn’t have any for almost 12 months. I got very ill in October with a cough I couldn’t get rid of until mid January, after I found a way to strengthen my immune system again with Nutrilite.  The cough became bronchitis then pneumonia.  It cost me dearly as I was too sick to cover the election as a reporter for local radio stations.

3.     How has eating GF changed your life?

The biggest change for me is that I can’t break bread with friends spontaneously.  I also can’t experiment with international dishes as freely.  I have learned more about my digestive track and overall health because of it.  I’m also very careful to eat enough fresh vegetables and fruit and to drink enough water to nurture my system.

4.     How has gluten-free living changed you as a mom? How has it changed your kids?

Wow!  For some reason this one makes me cry.  When I was diagnosed I had 3-month and 6-year-old daughters and an 8-year-old son.  I started to cry when I was diagnosed and my son, Tyson, looking up at me to say, “Don’t worry mama.  I’ll find a cure.”  25-year-old Tyson has his bachelor’s in Organic Chemistry and is studying Eastern Medicine in China right now. After a false negative blood test when he was in the 4th grade, and again at 20-years-old, he concluded that he has Celiac Disease.

All 3 kids have great eating habits as they were exposed to many new and different foods growing up.  We didn’t really have bread with our sandwiches after I was diagnosed so eating is very kinesthetic for us – which just means we like to eat with our hands!!! All 3 kids love cooking and are quite good at it.  Just last night, our youngest, 17-year-old Kaitlyn, made her first dish cutting up chicken by herself.  I am reviewing Peter and Kelli Bronski’s incredible cookbook, Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking, and Kaitlyn modified General Tau’s Chicken by using Norlander’s Original Gluten Free Teriyaki Sauce instead of making a sauce.  It was yummy.  I think my kids have fewer fears around food because they have a greater awareness of it.  I’ve worked to empower my kids and taking responsibility for and developing a love for what they consume is one thing I’ve wanted them to learn.

I truly believe I’m a better mama because I have learned so much about nutrition, immune health and digestion while raising my kids.  We’ve also talked about digestion and poop and toots more than many families so they are more aware of and comfortable with their bodies!

5.     Why do you find it important to help other people who are on a GF diet?

It’s tough having Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance but with enough time and money it’s simply inconvenient.  I’ve had a small grocery budget most of my life as a mom.  It was particularly difficult when my son was playing football and I had to feed him steak and potatoes at least 2 times a day just to keep him from losing weight.  So I know the heartache of having to compromise the quality of food for everyone in the family so one person can get the nutrition they need. My heart bleeds for the moms and dads who want to feed their kids well but have to resort to foods high in sugar, fat and salt and low in nutrition to just keep them alive. And if someone can’t eat the gluten filled food from the food bank it’s a very difficult hurdle to jump.

After I had co-founded the Celiac Support Group in Northern Colorado 17 years ago, I remember talking to a mother who had a sick 7 year old who had Celiac Disease.  The exasperated mom said she had to choose between feeding her whole family or just feeding her sick daughter the very expensive gluten free food she could find.  The distraught mother said, referring to her Celiac daughter, “She’s just going to have to live with diarrhea. “

I was devastated by her reality, so I gathered as much gluten free food as I could and left it on her doorstep.  Unfortunately, my reality was very similar so it didn’t allow me to help parents like her again, until now.

Later, when I first became a single mom, and I said the cupboards were bare it was because they were empty, not because they weren’t filled with our favorites.  I worked delivering pizza for cash at that time while I was building an AFLAC Insurance business.  I was happy to bring home pizza each night for my daughters but very hungry because I could see the reality of cross contamination everywhere so I went to bed hungry many nights.  I often told my girls that I had already eaten so they didn’t feel bad eating in front of me.  Even tho it was late, they often stayed up for this extra meal.  These are tough memories.  It was an even tougher reality.  My lack of food dulled my brain and made my ADHD worse.

6.     Why are you pursuing food banks (pantries) and other organizations who help the needy?

Local food banks or pantries are my focus because I think we need a way to systematically feed the gluten free hungry.  We will away have the needy, but we also have the temporarily unemployed now in big numbers.  I’d also like to create a way for women and children to get out of dangerous relationships.  If we can keep them fed and nourished, they have more options for growth.

If you have Celiac Disease you know how serious the brain fog can be while eating gluten.  Well imagine trying to solve GIANT problems like not being able to feed your kids, knowing you need to make major changes in your life to earn more money, trying not to lose your house under the cloud of brain fog.  Not easy to do.

My focus is on finding willing (1)agencies and pairing them with local (2)volunteers, (3)corporations and a (4)readymade process to establish gluten free food banks nationwide in 2010.  Raquelita’s Tortillas is leading the way for corporations by setting up a corporate giving program where 1% of the sale of their GF flatbread, Sandwich Petals, will be donated to food banks each month.  I will be seeking corporate sponsors to offset the time and expense involved but that will come easily, I believe. I’d like my company, Gluten Free Dee, LLC, to become the clearing house for corporate donations being paired with communities setting up and running a gluten free food bank.

As you can see, Dee has lots of plans for the future!! Here’s a link to Dee’s website and the press release for the event .

Thanks for raising awareness Dee.  I will definitely be dropping off a box of gluten-free goodies at my local food bank this holiday season.  Hopefully this is the beginning of something that will help many families across North America!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Johnita December 4, 2009 at 3:28 pm

What a compelling story and one I have heard from others. I was just asking my business partner if we could give a donation to our local food bank yesterday, I guess it is time to pack that box.
My ex-partner almost lost her first child to celiac disease 27 years ago. Fortunately she was in the right hospital when he became so weak that they diagnosed him at first with a failure to thrive. A Doctor decided to do one more test a biopsy of the small intestine, which saved his life and gave them the diagnosis of celiac disease.
Getting good products at an affordable price is what I hope my company can do for the celiac community.
God Bless people like Dee. I hope I can help in a small way. Johnita


MaggieSavage December 4, 2009 at 4:17 pm

I know, it’s an amazing story. She’s an incredible woman. I was just at the grocery store and the local food bank was there, asking people to fill paper bags with food. I bought some gluten-free goodies and made sure they set them aside so they didn’t get lost in the other packaged goods. I honestly would not have thought of this had I not interviewed Dee today!


Stephanie Robbins December 7, 2009 at 10:48 am

Wow! We are so honored to be noted as one of the brands you cannot live without. Gluten Free Dee directed me to your blog post, yes GF tweeps (and supporters) need to stick together. Love the blog! Will follow and keep in touch.

Happy (GF) eating!

Stephanie Robbins
Director of Marketing
Pamela’s Products


MaggieSavage December 7, 2009 at 11:50 am

Thanks so much for stopping by Stephanie! It’s an honour to have a comment from Pamela’s on my blog.


Gluten Free Dee December 14, 2009 at 9:47 pm

I’m honored to have been featured here Maggie! Now I have a girlfriend who lives in Canada! Your support of the GF Food Bank in the states is admirable. I’m epecially happy you are thinking about supporting your local food bank differently so someone in need can eat and become healthier. If we all do a little, we change things a lot!


MaggieSavage December 15, 2009 at 7:07 pm

My pleasure Dee. Thanks for stopping by again! I am inspired by you and all that you do!


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