This year I am taking Celiac Awareness Month a little more personally than years past! In March, I went to the Digestive Disease National Coalition and met with Senators to discuss Resolution 550 that officially makes May National Celiac Awareness Month.
When talking with the Senate staff I explained that making May Celiac Awareness Month gives members of the gluten free community a great jumping off point for awareness campaigns and projects. For example, the Gluten Intolerance Group implements their Chef-To-Plate program every May that gets restaurants to display information about the gluten free diet at their establishments. NFCA’s Fuel the Family program will share family stories from the gluten free blogosphere, daily gluten free product spotlights and will be promoting a Wear Green Day! The Celiac Disease Foundation has their annual Gluten Free EXPO on the 4th and 5th of May in Pasadena, California.
We don’t need to leave all the work to the nonprofits though! There are plenty of small projects and actions you can take to promote Celiac awareness during the month of May.
I want to practice what I preach by using May as a jumping off point for my awareness efforts. Any increase in awareness, no matter how small, can make a big difference in the lives of people living gluten free. How many times have you been at a restaurant when the waiter happened to know all about the gluten free diet and cross-contamination because he knew someone who knew someone? Although there is no instant gratification when it comes to promoting awareness, our collective work really does make a difference!
I know we are all busy; however, below is a list of ideas that won’t take up too much of your time but can still help you promote awareness. Items on this list should be able to fit into the busiest of schedules. For example, I am a first year teacher at a turnaround school in the DC Region, I am taking the MCAT on May 11 and I am applying to medical school in June but I will be doing the items on the list with asterisks* next to them.
1. **Facebook Banner – if you are a member of any type of group that hosts events I am sure you have been asked to change your profile picture or banner to promote events. When I was an undergraduate, my professional sorority used to make it a “sister-requirement” to change our profile pictures during Rush. This is a simple yet super effective way to promote awareness and it only takes a few seconds! You can design your own banner or picture to display or go to this website for some pre-made banners promoting awareness!
On that note, remember to Like CC Gluten Freed on Facebook!
For the entire month of May, I am changing my banner to:
2. **Buy a few Gluten Free shirts and wear them every Monday for the month of May (or any day, I just liked the alliteration) Here are some of the shirts I bought for May 2013. If you want to go the extra mile, buy some GF swag for family members too! I know it seems excessive but I really did order all of these items…there aren’t many perks to being gluten free, at least we have cute clothes!
I also have the Gluten Freek shirt from Mariposa Bakery in Oakland, California amongst many others.
3. **Pinterest Challenge - I am going to post one picture to Pinterest every day for the month of May that will promote awareness. This is my goal for Celiac Awareness Month. I will keep you all posted with my updates!
4. Twitter - Commit to tweeting about gluten free experiences during the month of may. You can post about restaurants you go to, foods you make, people you meet, anything just keep the posts coming!
5. Blog - Last May Gluten Dude updated his blog every single day for the month of May. This is way too big a time commitment for me but if you can do it then more power to you! It is great for boosting your creativity. In order to get ideas to write about you might end up doing some research and learn something new yourself!
6. Donate - Worried about the time commitment? The quickest way, though not cheapest, way to celebrate Celiac Awareness Month is to donate to your favorite GF nonprofit. National Foundation For Celiac Awareness, Gluten Intolerance Group and Celiac Disease Foundation are some of my favorites. They do great work to promote awareness across the country!
7. Make a basket for a friend – Reconnect with members of the gluten free community by sending them a basket! Maybe you met someone at the last gluten free expo you attended or maybe you exchanged business cards with a random gluten free person you met last week or maybe you attended a gluten free support group meeting a year ago and still have some contacts. Follow up with these connections and send a little GF goodie basket!
8. Go to an event - Check out this website that lists gluten free events going on around the country. Find one near you. You can also check out websites that list Celiac and/or gluten free support groups. Attend a meeting! You can also go to http://www.meetup.com and find a MeetUp group in your area that connects gluten free locals.
9. Bake GF cupcakes for your coworkers – What better way to explain about the gluten free diet than by giving people delicious treats? This is a great way to get your coworkers to be more supportive of your lifestyle. If you can, make the frosting Green. Here is a great recipe for Tiramisu cupcakes. Here is a review of a great GF all-purpose flour so you can convert fun recipes you find online.
10. **Get friends and family involved – The best way to really understand what it is like to live with Celiac Disease is to actually try being gluten free for a day. Have a friend or family member order gluten free while dining out for a week even if they aren’t celiac. When I first started to show signs that I was struggling with being gluten free, my uncle decided to try being gluten free to see what the problem was. It then became clear to him how challenging it truly is. Cross-contamination issues, awareness issues, dining out, social problems that arise because of being gluten free are all among the list of challenges that people with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance face. These issues are pretty invisible to the average Joe, so get your family or friends informed by teaching them how to live gluten free, even if just for a week. The only way to truly get it is to live it.
Happy Celiac Awareness Month!