LEWISTOWN - The first Central Pa. Gluten Free Expo, co-hosted by Central Pa. Newspapers and the State College Celiac Support Group, is set for Nov. 10. The event includes local and national vendors, educational seminars, giveaways and guest speakers.
"As more and more people are diagnosed with celiac disease or dealing with gluten sensitivities, we view this expo as a service to our network of readers and the community," said Matthew Bolich, The Sentinel's advertising director and coordinator for the Central Pa. Gluten Free Expo. "Some of our staff's family members need to eat gluten free, so our company understands the challenges involved."
The purpose of the expo is to show people the variety of gluten free food and supportive resources that are available to them, said Heidi Watson, president of the State College Celiac Support Group. The event is about showing those who have celiac disease how to live well and be healthy, she said.
"I'd like people on a gluten free diet to know that it's not as hard as it may seem," Watson said. "We'll have a number of seminars to answer questions and some really tasty food for them to try. It's all about spreading awareness."
Of the more than 25 confirmed vendors, local participants include Nature's Harmony, of Lewistown, and the Burnham OIP and Restaurant.
Nature's Harmony specializes in organic and allergen free foods, store Owner Rose Hower said. Her booth will feature tasting samples as well as products for purchase.
"It's important that people know they have somewhere to go for gluten free needs," Hower said. "Since I opened the store in 2007, there has been a consistent growing demand for gluten free foods."
Burnham OIP Owner Mike Bailey is looking forward to the expo to present the restaurant's new gluten free menu, which includes pizza, salads, desserts and appetizers. He plans to have copies of the menu available as well as samples of the triple chocolate torte and chocolate decadence desserts.
"It's important to know that not all gluten free desserts are created equal," Bailey said. "We introduced the gluten free menu in January and my customers have been very excited about it."
Other vendors from Pennsylvania include Herlocher Foods, BeWell Associates, Corrinado's Pizza, Tonya's Gluten Free Kitchen, Bella Lucia and more.
At 1 p.m., Keynote Speaker Alice Bast, founder and president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, will take the stage to discuss taking an active approach to personal health.
"A number of our board members are from that area so I was thrilled and honored to be asked to the expo," Bast said. "I'll be talking about how to embrace living life on a gluten free diet. It's about acceptance, empowerment and staying proactive."
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those with celiac disease through education, empowerment, advocacy and research, Bast said. Oct. 10 marks the organization's 10-year anniversary.
"The expo is a great opportunity to bring the work we're doing to central Pennsylvania," Bast said. "I'm hoping people walk away knowing they can come to us as a one stop resource and that they don't have to be afraid to eat."
Seminars also include speaker Anne Roland Lee, director of nutritional services at Dr. Schar USA and a Celiac 101 Session presented by the State College Celiac Support Group.
The Central PA Gluten Free Expo runs from noon to 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the Ramada Conference Center, 1450 S. Atherton St., State College. Tickets are available for $5 in advance or $8 at the door. Children 16 or younger are free.
Tickets can be purchased at Nature's Harmony, The Sentinel office or by calling (800) 827-6397. Tickets are also available online through a link on The Sentinel's home page.
For more information on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, visit www.celiaccentral.org. Additional information on the expo can be found at the Central PA Gluten Free Expo Facebook page.