OK In Health - Gluten Free Goodness

Kelowna 2012 Gluten-Free Expo & Celiac Conference - May 2012

Information and Resources on Your Doorstep

By Cathy Lauer

This year the Okanagan is lucky enough to be hosting the National Conference of the Canadian Celiac Association in Kelowna May 25 – 27 at the Delta Grand Okanagan Hotel. What is so lucky about that? Five amazing doctors who are on the leading edge of knowledge and research in Celiac disease, dieticians, a chef and a gluten-free trade show. What more could you want when you are searching for support and information for living a gluten-free lifestyle?

In 2008 I was fortunate enough to be a vendor at the National CCA Conference in Victoria. The ‘Gluten Intolerance Festival’ (TGIF) was held at the beautiful Fairmont Empress. Our booth was situated in such a way that we were able to see and hear all the guest speakers for the weekend. The information they had to offer was phenomenal and the delivery was done in such a way that the time passed so quickly I couldn’t believe the presentation was over.

The food prepared for the weekend by the hotel was as lavish as any buffet you could imagine and it was all gluten free. They were even able to accommodate other allergies as well with a little advanced notice. Imagine going to a conference and being able to eat everything they put on the table, three meals a day for three whole days!

I met vendors from over 40 different companies and got to sample new products about to come to market or revisit old favourites. The vendors were very knowledgeable and eager to hear our suggestions or requests.

My favourite part of the weekend was the Open House on Saturday afternoon, the first time in CCA Conference history that the general public was invited to attend the trade show. In just 3 hours, a wave of 900 people swept through the exhibit hall, leaving only gluten-free crumbs in their wake. Who knew there were so many people who needed a gluten-free diet? The personal stories were unique but the recurring theme was the same, “I wish I had been on a gluten-free diet sooner!” So many people with a common bond; not having to explain what it means to be gluten free; tips and tricks from other celiacs; feeling buoyed by the positive energy in the room and knowing that there are thousands of other celiacs out there living happily gluten free. It was such a positive experience!

One of the amazing people I met in at TGIF 2008 was Ellen Bayens. As the volunteer Sponsorship and Exhibitor Coordinator for TGIF, Ellen found that the personal stories of the gluten-free vendors were equally inspiring. “So many of them are celiacs themselves or have a friend or family member challenged to live gluten free. They are determined to contribute to our quality of life by bringing their unique products to market. At considerable cost, they source truly gluten-free ingredients to ensure our safety and many undertake extra expenses to test their finished products. All assured me that entering the gluten-free market is definitely a labour of love!”

Ellen was also the creator of the welcome map provided to the 600+ conference delegates as they arrived from across BC, Canada and the United States. The locations of the restaurants that the local celiac community trusted were noted on the map. Conference attendees fanned out into the downtown area with maps in hand and confidence in their hearts! This amazing map was so warmly received that Ellen created www.TheCeliacScene.com, providing free maps to celiac-endorsed restaurants across the country. If you attend the Conference in Kelowna, you’ll be receiving a Celiac Scene Welcome map yourself!

As for attending CCA Conferences, Ellen enthuses that “nothing compares with being in the company of other celiacs who share your struggles and your victories. Strangers become fast friends as you attend seminars that range from the practical (bread making), educational (latest research news) and entertaining. The samples, the food, the renowned Saturday night banquet – it is a slice of gluten-free heaven! CCA Conferences offer the most reputable, up-to-date information on the disease and the diet and create a platform to discuss the issues that directly impact our lives i.e. food labeling and our right to safe food.”

A sign of things to come, Canada’s first-ever Gluten Free Expo took place in Vancouver in January, 2012. Ellen observed that, “with its focus on the gluten-free lifestyle, more than 3000 people leapt at the opportunity to meet gluten-free manufacturers face to face, or more appropriately, hand to mouth! The stage is set for a first-ever Gluten Free Expo in Toronto on September 30th, 2012 and the new Conference Centre at Vancouver’s Canada Place has been booked for an even bigger and better Vancouver show in January 13, 2013! See www.GlutenFreeExpo.ca  for complete information or better yet, sign up for their newsletter for information about a Gluten Free Expo coming to a city near you!!”  In the meantime, Ellen advises that you “visit www.KelownaCeliac.org for information on the next best gluten-free event!”

Pumped up with Ellen’s enthusiasm and information as well as my personal perspective on the importance of Kelowna 2012 National Conference I hope you will seriously consider attending. The opportunity you have right in your own back yard is really too good to pass up. You never know who you will meet or what vital piece of information you may glean from a speaker or vendor that just might make your life a little bit easier. Taking in this conference might just be the boost you need to embrace your celiac disease or gluten intolerance diagnosis with confidence and joy, knowing that there are so many others out there living full productive lives on a gluten free diet. Your support network will be that much broader and you will find that your resource base will be closer and more accessible than you previously thought. What have you got to lose? Go and check it out!

References – Ellen Bayens – The Celiac Scene
                        Kelowna Chapter CCA

Cathy LauerCathy's Bio: Cathy Lauer has been cooking/baking gluten/dairy free for 17 years. She has written 3 all baking cookbooks and has a gluten free baking blog/store. In her spare time she loves to garden in a big way with fruit, vegetable and flower gardens. She is a classically trained singer and loves to read and collect recipe books. She homeschools her youngest son (11) and has 3 grown children and is grandmother of 2. Cathy's Gluten Free Creations Ltd. Gourmet Gluten Free Baking. Cookbooks and Baking Mixes. 250-758-5232 - Cathy Lauer Website - Email

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