Gluten-free and Allergen-friendly Expo fills a personal need

By: 
CAROLYN DRYER, Editor

Jen Cafferty

Jen Cafferty founded the Gluten-free and Allergen-friendly Expo organization 12 years ago. It followed years of experiencing the pain associated with foods her body could not tolerate. Before she started the GFAF organization, Cafferty and her family were already health conscious.
“At that point, myself, my husband — my kids were 1 and 3 — we didn’t know if we had celiac disease. We were already eating gluten-free. We were never diagnosed with it.”
Cafferty’s husband was finally diagnosed — he was the first. His diagnosis was gluten intolerance.
Her daughter was sick. Cafferty thought it was gluten, so she was taken off gluten.
“Then, I thought, I’ll go off gluten and dairy, lose weight,” Cafferty said.
“All my problems went away once I was gluten-free.”
Other areas of her body began showing signs of another ailment about five or six years ago. Cafferty had pains in her feet, so she went grain-free and those symptoms went away.
“Oddly, since I’ve been on chemotherapy, I’m able to eat a little dairy and grain,” she said. “I eat a lot of protein, lots of healthy fats.”
Cafferty is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and remains optimistic about her treatment outcome. She goes from the subject of cancer to celiac disease and the changes that have taken place in the last few years when it comes to resources and ways to enjoy eating without feeling as if you are sacrificing texture and taste.
There are so many different kinds of flour, today’s celiac disease sufferers can pick and choose.
“You have to figure it out and go with a plan,” Cafferty said. “Listen to your body.”
When she started the company, Cafferty said she knew how to cook very well. She went to a gluten-free seminar, thought it was such a great idea, she started her own company.
“We started cooking classes,” she said. “We had a couple exhibitors there, too. The next year, we said, ‘You know, the people who came to the cooking classes really liked the exhibitors. It just kept going. We stopped big cooking classes, tried a second city, and the next year, 10 cities.
“Last year, I bought the company from Jason Elmore, founder of Find Me Gluten Free (with) 70,000 listings worldwide. It’s really beneficial when you’re traveling.
“I think the biggest thing about me is I started this out of a personal need. And realized I was a very good cook, had lots of resources (in Chicago); then I thought about those people in rural areas. I really felt there was a need for this, and over the last 13 years, the company has grown organically by fans coming to us saying it would be really nice to have (classes on cooking, information, restaurants). So, I built the company on fans and brands.”
Connecting brands to consumers is helpful to consumers and the brands, Cafferty said.
“We’re bringing together college and university food professionals to learn how to cook for gluten-free and allergen-free,” she said. “More and more people are eating the food. So, they care about their population, we can feed them.”


Gluten-free and Allergen-friendly Expo June 23-24

Individuals who would like to sample before they purchase gluten-free and allergen-friendly food products can do so 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 23 and 24 at Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa, 9495 W. Coyotes Blvd.
“With comfort foods like pizza and baked goods to healthy lifestyle options like protein bars and probiotic drinks, this expo truly offers something for everyone,” said GFAF Expo founder Jen Cafferty. “An event of this scale being accessible to the general public is a rare and exciting way to explore new products and sample new options before you buy them.”
Parking is free.
The use of strollers, carts or wagons is prohibited except as needed for transporting children or medical equipment.
Call the venue at 623-937-3700.
 
Safety is the first priority
By entering the exhibit hall, visitors are accepting the following:
The show is not 100 percent free from any potential allergen, as it is hosted in a multi-use venue. All visitors must be aware of their health situation, take appropriate precautions and carry necessary medication.
The show is meant to meet the needs of people with a diverse array of health conditions. All products are gluten-free; however, many booths do contain other allergens.
Not all items at the show are certified gluten-free. Also, some items are made in shared facilities but meet certification and government requirements. It is up to each individual to read labels before using, consuming or purchasing products.
Individuals know their health situation better than anyone else. If individuals are not able to tolerate a product, do not sample.
The products and advice of exhibitors are not endorsed in any way by the show organizers. Show organizers take no responsibility for discussions between visitors and exhibitors, nor for any situation that may occur as a result of those conversations.

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