Central PA Gluten Free Expo set for Nov. 20

Event to feature more than 50 vendors

Sentinel file photo Guests at the 2015 Central PA Gluten Free Expo take free samples of food from vendors.

STATE COLLEGE — The fourth annual Central PA Gluten Free Expo will take place Nov. 20 at the Penn Stater Conference center and Hotel, 215 Innovation Boulevard, State College.

The event, open from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., will include more than 50 local and national vendors, educational presentations, door prizes and gluten-free samples.

Expo organizer Matthew Bolich said more than 1,100 people attended last year’s event. The expo offers a way to find out more about gluten-free product choices and availability, as well as an opportunity to connect with local support groups for persons with celiac disease.

Keynote speaker Jules Shepard, known nationally as “gfJules,” will present two sessions at the expo, including a class on the tricky art of baking tasty gluten-free bread. Shepard has been highly visible in the gluten-free community since 2007 with the publication of her first gluten-free cookbook. Since then she authored two more award-winning published books, became associate editor of “Living Without’s Gluten Free & More” and started gfJules.com to produce compromise-free gluten-free baking mixes and flour.

Shepard said it is really important in this age of unlimited media that folks who need to eat gluten free for medical reasons have easy access to reliable resources and information. Particularly for those who are new to the diet and lifestyle, being able to talk to experts and have their questions answered face-to-face is so essential.

“I also love to meet new people at these events and to see people who I’ve corresponded with online and through social media like Facebook,” Shepard said. “These expos are a fantastic way to taste-test brands and products so you know if you like them before you spend money on them. There are tons of (gluten-free) products out now, and unfortunately, not all are as delicious as others. It’s super depressing to waste money on products that your family won’t eat, so tasting first saves time, money and aggravation. Plus, many brands are represented which are not in mainstream stores — it’s a great way to learn about companies and products.”

Shepard has continued her advocacy by exposing other dangerous practices in manufacturing and in the restaurant industry and promoted awareness and education around safe gluten-free products. Shepard also pens the number one voted gluten-free blog, hosts a popular podcast “The Gluten-Free Voice,” and continues to run her award-winning gluten-free flour and baking mixes company.

During her presentations at the show she is going to teach attendees about the new gluten-free food labeling regulations and what they do and do not do to protect consumers.

“There is a great deal of misinformation about gluten-free products, so we’ll go over examples of food labels and how to select the safest products,” Shepard said. “I’ll also address the significant confusion about gluten-free oats and ‘gluten-reduced’ beers. At my later presentation, I’ll show how to quickly make delicious homemade gluten-free bread. And of course, there will be lots of yummy samples.”

Other presenters at this year’s event include Wegmans nutritionist Marda Heuman and author Melinda Arcara, who has authored the book, “3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living.”

Expo exhibitors will be sampling, selling and promoting products at the event. Confirmed vendors for this year include Herlocher Foods, Burnham OIP, Lesser Evil Foods, Enjoy Life and more. The presenting sponsor of the expo is Wegmans of State College and tickets will be available at all Wegmans locations.Sentinel Events and Gluten-Free State College support group are hosting the event.

The schedule of the event is as follows: doors open at 12:30 p.m. for general admission ticket holders; keynote presentation by Jules Shepard at 1:15 p.m.; 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living, by nutritionist for Wegmans at 3:15 p.m.; and Gluten-Free Bread Baking How-To, by Jules Shepard at 4:15 p.m.

Advance tickets are $9, ages ages 16 and younger are admitted for free. Tickets purchased at the door are $12 each and free parking is available.

Advance tickets are available at all Wegmans service desks. Tickets may also be ordered by calling (800) 827-6397 or online at centralpagfexpo.brownpapertickets.com.

Follow the event at www.twitter.com/PAGFExpo or www.facebook.com/CentralPAGFExpo.