The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), founded in 1968, empowers the gluten-free community through consumer support, advocacy and education. Their outreach is to everyone who has made the decision to live gluten-free, not just to those with gluten-related disorders. To learn about the resources the group provides, Gluten-Free Living spoke with GIG Communications Manager Michelle Spano to learn more.
GFL: Can you explain the work that The Gluten Intolerance Group does?
GIG: With the continued recognition of gluten-free dietary needs and the recent emphasis on gluten-free products and offerings, our role in the community is more important now than ever. From assisting local communities through our network of support groups, to being a leader in food safety certification, GIG is a top non-profit organization for consumers worldwide.
What is the origin story of GIG? When and how did it begin?
GIG was founded in 1968 by Elaine Hartsook, PhD, RD, to meet the needs of individuals in the local Seattle community. She called it the Gluten Intolerance Group—the condition was not yet referred to as celiac disease, but “gluten intolerance enteropathy.” In 1974 she formalized the nonprofit as a national organization, with the vision of GIG being an international leader in the community, providing expertise on living with gluten enteropathy. In1996, Cynthia Kupper, a registered dietitian, took over the organization and expanded on the vision Elaine had for the organization.
What are the programs that GIG offers? What are your most popular resources?
GIG has a free membership that includes a digital magazine filled with unique articles, coupons, and recipes. We also have a kids membership that includes great resources for kids—like a magazine that arrives in your mailbox just for your gluten-free kid. GIG has local support groups for both kids and adults across the globe. Our most popular resources are our Educational Bulletins, FAQs, and Recursos En Español (Spanish Resources).
What does Certified Gluten-Free do?
That “Certified Gluten-Free” logo you see on your favorite gluten-free foods signifies that the product has passed our rigorous Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) certification process. You can trust that it is truly gluten-free (tests <10 ppm gluten) and that the process, facility, and ingredients were assessed for safety according to our strict standards.
What is Generation GF?
Generation GF is a program designed to build confidence in kids, teens, and young adults, and help develop them into the future leaders of our gluten-free community. Our goal is to provide safe environments where kids don’t have to worry about what they are going to eat and can just enjoy the fun that comes with being a kid. We want to provide families with a resource through which they can have their questions answered and where they can feel more involved with others in their community. Most importantly, we want to have a program that all age groups will embrace and feel happy to say that they are members of Generation GF.
How has GIG changed over the years? Has your mission developed over time?
GIG has always been a champion of the gluten-free consumer, both with those who have to be gluten-free for medical purposes and for those who make gluten-free a lifestyle choice. As this community has grown, GIG has expanded our resources and our outreach to ensure that all demographics can find the information that they seek. Our certification programs ensure that gluten-free consumers are safe with the products that they choose and the food service establishments that they can dine in worldwide. A main focus of our Mission is to “empower the gluten-free community” and that remains the driving force behind what we try to achieve on a daily basis.
What can people look forward to seeing from GIG in 2019?
GIG is excited to continue our expansion into the community in 2019. Our certification program will be growing our reach into more international locations, making sure that manufacturers worldwide are meeting the standards expected by our community. Our Gluten-Free Food Services (GFFS) certification program will be helping even more restaurants, cafeterias, schools, and hospitals to set up proper practices to be more aware of the needs of their gluten-free consumers.
We look forward to having a continued presence in local communities through our support group network and we hope to reach even more kids, teens, and young adults through a new Generation GF Mentorship program. All of this, and 2019 is the 45th year for GIG as a non-profit! Looking at not only how far GIG has come these past 45 years, but also our gluten-free community as a whole, will be something that we’ll celebrate throughout the year.
How can people be involved in working with GIG?
As previously mentioned, our memberships for both adults and kids are a great way to get involved. We have a strong social media presence (find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest) where we share the latest research, recipes, and riveting conversations that you can partake in and share. We also rely on and greatly appreciate donations to support our community-serving programs.
What is the biggest way you hope people are able to benefit from GIG?
We hope to help people live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives despite their medical conditions. We aim to instill the confidence and provide resources that all individuals need to tackle both the small and big challenges that come with a medically necessary diet.