Gluten-free Food Fair to serve up samples, prizes and more

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published April 23, 2014

FARMINGTON — Farmington Hills resident Sharon Manning has cried in the grocery store when she felt like she was out of options for choosing gluten-free foods to feed her family.

As a wife and mother of two girls, 14 and 8, who all have celiac disease, it was not always that simple to pick up a box of cereal, or other common food staples, and call it a day.

“I’m not the one affected, but as a mom and a wife, I have stood in the grocery store and cried in the middle of the cereal aisle trying to find something that my family can eat,” she said.  “Because when you pick up 19 boxes in a row and they are all unsafe for your family (to eat), it gets very discouraging.”

Manning hopes others in the community won’t have to look far and wide to find gluten-free foods during a Tri-County Celiac Support Group’s Gluten Free Food Fair 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. April 26 at the First Presbyterian Church, 26165 Farmington Road.

At the event, attendees could taste free gluten-free samples, shop, win door prizes raffles and more.

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Eating gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine if someone has Celiac disease. Over time, this reaction produces inflammation that damages the small intestine’s lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients.

The intestinal damage can cause weight loss, bloating and sometimes diarrhea; eventually, one’ brain, nervous system, bones, liver and other organs could be deprived of vital nourishment.

The precise cause of celiac disease is not known.

About 1 in 141 people in the United States have celiac disease, although the disease often goes undiagnosed, according to a study done by Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health estimates.

Manning said the support group started because a few people who have celiac became acquainted and realized what benefit there was in getting together to help one another out.

“This is a disease that is not well-known. It is getting more so now, but historically, it was very unknown because the treatment is not a drug — solely the gluten-free diet,” Manning said.

She added that about 20 years ago, gluten-free food options were pricey and unsavory.

“The joke (was) the people who bought gluten-free food didn’t know whether to eat the food or the box it came in because they tasted the same,” Manning said. “The Food Fair started because the group said rather than paying all this money to try something and find out you hate it, let’s put together a Food Fair, invite vendors to give us samples, and then we can find out who’s got the best cookies, who’s got brownies that actually taste good?”

From pizza to gravies and sauces, attendees can munch on food to their hearts’ content.

Tri-County Celiac Support Group President Margaret A. Orlando said the best part of the event is that attendees come to realize they are not alone in the struggle to stay on the diet.

“The Gluten Free Food Fair is a wonderful opportunity to meet other (people with celiac),” she said.

A dietitian will also be available during the event to answer questions.

The event is free for members, and $5 per person or per family.

Those interested in becoming members are welcome to join at the event for a fee.

For more information, contact