GIG Offers Programs to Make Your GF Life Easier
Need Support with Gluten-Free Living?
Gluten Intolerance Group Offers Programs to Make Your GF Life Easier
Whether you’ve been newly diagnosed with celiac disease or you’ve been gluten-free for a while, if you’re looking for support, Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) has programs and resources to help. Maybe you’re having trouble affording gluten-free products, or you could use some fellow gluten-free friends to meet with, or maybe you’re looking for safe gluten-free restaurants near you – whatever the case, there is likely something that GIG offers that can help you or those you love live a more fulfilling gluten-free lifestyle.
GIG was founded in 1974 with the purpose of helping people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, particularly with local branches of support groups. Since then, the non-profit organization has expanded the types of support services it offers to include many other programs. Here’s a look at what this organization does for the gluten-free community and how they may be able to help you.
GIG has more than 80 local branches of support groups across the U.S. and a couple overseas, too. These support groups offer in-person and online support, including information for getting started on your gluten-free journey, shopping tips, recipes, and feedback about the best local restaurants offering safe gluten-free food. These groups might get together in-person once a month or whatever frequency they decide on and have a potluck, cooking demo, or another outing that usually involves food! If you can’t find a support group in your area, you can start your own with GIG’s help.
Help for Kids & Teens
GIG helps kids, teens, and young adults navigate celiac disease and gluten sensitivity through their program, Generation GF. They provide educational resources online for kids, such as symptom infographics and materials to print for their teachers. Generation GF also has a kid-focused magazine subscription that kids can access for free, plus local support groups host events for kids to meet others like them with celiac disease. If you have a teenager who is excellent at navigating their gluten-free life, they can become a Generation GF Mentor, where they will mentor other kids and teens who could use help learning the ropes. Generation GF also puts on a Teen Summit to help connect teens and young adults to others like them who are living a gluten-free life, and to help them learn and adjust if they are new to gluten-free. And lastly, this program offers a couple of gluten-free summer camps for kids – because no child should forgo such a quintessential childhood pastime just because of their diet.
GIG has compiled resources for people in different professions – school nurses, teachers, dietitians, parents – to help them better understand the gluten-free diet. You can find those at gluten.org/toolkit-resources. They also have educational bulletins, where they have several articles about essential topics like the difference between celiac, gluten sensitivity, and a wheat allergy. You can find this at gluten.org/educational-bulletins.
Gluten-Free Product Certification
The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) is a program under GIG that verifies products to be gluten-free. In order to become Certified Gluten-Free by GFCO, the GFCO reviews a manufacturer’s individual ingredients as well as its finished product. GFCO doesn’t certify an entire company or product line as a whole, but instead certifies each individual product. This means that a company must go through the certification process for each product they want reviewed. GFCO’s standards are high – products with their certification contain 10 parts per million (ppm) of gluten or less, despite the FDA’s standard for foods with a gluten-free label to be under 20 ppm. GFCO has certified more than 60,000 products worldwide. All revenue from this program is invested into GIG’s programs to support the gluten-free community. Something you might not know is that the GFCO has a page on their website where you can read about safety alerts. If a product is found to be contaminated or recalled or if a company is using the GFCO label without legitimate certification (it happens sometimes) they list that information here: gfco.org/safety-alerts.
Gluten-Free Food Service Validation
The Gluten-Free Food Service (GFFS) program by the GIG validates food establishments that have safe gluten-free food handling practices. These establishments, from restaurants to universities to hospitals and senior living facilities, are given the designation of Gluten-Free Safe Spot by the GFFS after successfully going through an auditing and training process to ensure they are operating safely for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Search for Gluten-Free Safe Spots near you at gffs.org/safe-spots. GFFS recently launched their Coaches program to help expand the reach of their verification program into more restaurants. Regular people, preferably those who are gluten-free themselves or otherwise knowledgeable about gluten-free living, can apply to become a GFFS Coach. Coaches will receive special training and materials to assist them in signing restaurants up for the GFFS program and teaching restaurant staff how to do gluten-free the right way in their restaurant. Restaurants pay to become validated, and coaches receive a commission of that pay. Aside from earning extra money on your time, the best thing about this program is that you’ll help create more choices for you and your fellow gluten-free community to choose from.
Curbing Food Insecurity
GIG’s latest endeavor is a program called GIG Cares, which will send monthly boxes of Certified Gluten-Free food products to people in financial need. Since gluten-free food is often more expensive than its gluten-containing counterparts, Lexie Van Den Heuvel founded Cutting Costs for Celiacs in 2013 with the goal of providing stipends and care baskets for low-income families with children with celiac disease. The program was based in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. In 2020, after connecting with Cynthia Kupper, CEO of GIG, they decided to team up and take the idea to the national level under GIG. This is an application-based program for anyone living gluten free who is experiencing food insecurity.
For more than 47 years, the Gluten Intolerance Group has helped lead the charge for better safety, more inclusion, and accessible resources for people who eat gluten-free. Their overall goal is to try to make life easier for people living gluten-free, and with these programs, they are doing just that. Learn more about each of these programs at gluten.org.