The goal of this project was to promote celiac disease awareness by wearing t-shirts. I admit it is a very simply premise, but it has resulted in numerous awkward and educational conversations. I found an endless number of people all too happy to share their diagnosis stories, or talk about their friends who were recently diagnosed. There were many who questioned why everyone is on a ‘gluten free’ diet, so the project has been successful.
The most interesting interactions happened at a car dealership and a bakery. While I was at the car dealership I was in my Schar shirt and I was asked by a service technician to speak with one of their employees who was recently diagnosed. The interaction at the bakery was quite amusing. A customer asked me what gluten free means and why I was in a bakery trying to buy something. I explained that the particular bakery has a gluten-free selection a couple days a week. He then countered and asked why the bakery doesn’t make all of their cupcakes gluten free.
Those of us who eat gluten free because we have celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity eat this way to manager a serious medical condition that can only be ‘cured’ (for lack of a better word) by eating gluten-free foods. I don’t want or expect every restaurant or every company to offer gluten-free food, but I do expect those who do to take it seriously and commit to providing a safe dining experience for all who need it.
Here is the progression of t-shirts at the soft-of half-way mark:
- Day #1 – I wore a t-shirt from Udi’s Gluten Free with the slogan Gluten Freedom. Udi’s was the first national company to launch soft, gluten-free bread back in 2009. Since then, the company’s product line has grown to include: muffins, cookies, bars, wraps, bagels, rolls, and chips.
- Day #2 – I wore a t-shirt from Celiac and the Beast and I have to say it is currently my favorite. Erica Dermer is the owner of the blog, Celiac and the Beast, and she offered to send me a shirt for this project.
- Day #3 – I wore a t-shirt from Pure Knead bakery where I formerly worked as their marketing coordinator. Pure Knead is a dedicated gluten and allergen-friendly bakery in Decatur, GA with both retail and a wholesale product lines. Their products can be found locally in health food stores, restaurants, and other retail outlets.
- Day #4 – I wore Mary’s Gone Crackers t-shirt. Mary’s has a unique line of gluten-free crackers and cookies. I was thrilled to learn that their two new crackers are also free of soy.
- Day #5 – I wore my shirt from Celiac and the Beast again. What can I say, I really like it!
- Day #6 – I wore a Bard’s Tale Beer t-shirt and I have to say I look awful, but that is what I look like after a big event. I was also dealing with symptoms from cross contact, so I was feeling quite icky. Bard’s is the original producer of sorghum sourced gluten-free beer.
- Day #7 – I wore my Glutenista t-shirt. I love the design on the shirt, the color, and I like to think I work to ‘make gluten free fabulous.’
- Day #8 – I wore my coveted t-shirt form The Outback. For more than four years, our beloved Roswell location was the only one in the U.S. that had an extended menu. The former proprietor, Tom Propp, purchased a separate fryer and dedicated it to making: gluten-free fries, chicken fingers, doughnuts, fried shrimp, Bloomin’ Onions (dairy-free versions too). They also made gluten-free macaroni and cheese, Tawoomba pasta, provided table bread and offered buns for burgers. Corporate discontinued the menu last June and we all mourn its loss.
- Day #9 – I donned my Penta Water t-shirt. This is a great company who has sponsored a number of my gluten-free expos with their ultra purified, energized water. Their water not only fully hydrates, but it may also help increase antioxidant activity in your body, making it an easy, refreshing way to stay fully hydrated and to get the extra antioxidant protection needed.
- Day #10 – I wore my first restaurant t-shirt from Farm Burger. Farm Burger has gluten-free buns from local bakery Pure Knead on their menu. While they don’t offer fries, they have an ever changing list of sides and salads of the day all made with seasonal ingredients. Their burgers are made with beef that is grassfed, antibiotic and hormone-free, locally raised, ground fresh, and made in-house. They have three locations in metro Atlanta and they just opened one in Asheville, NC.
- Day #11 and #12 – I donned my brand new The Original El Taco shirt. I went to the restaurant to have lunch and picked up my shirt. Since this was Mother’s Day weekend and shirt is so incredibly soft, I wore it Saturday and Sunday. The Original El Taco is a Fifth Group Restaurant, so they have a separate gluten-free menu with a number of options. Back in 2010, The Fifth Group Restaurant was the first local group in the city’s restaurant industry to launch gluten-free menus in all seven of their restaurants.
- Day #13 – I wore my 1in133.org t-shirt. The website is a collaboration between the founders of 1in133.org, Jules Shepard and John Forberger, and the American Celiac Disease Alliance.
- Day #14 – I wore my Enjoy Life shirt. I always have a bag of their dairy, soy, and nut-free chocolate chips in my pantry!
- Day #15 – I wore my volunteer shirt from The Great Gluten Free Expo in Birmingham,AL. The t-shirts were sponsored by Schar and feature their logo on the back. I have been a fan of Schar’s product line for more than a decade and I am thrilled that their products are more readily available in the U.S. now.
I will post the rest of the t-shirts at the end of the month. I have to admit I am having fun!