Oh wow, it’s huge!That was my reaction as I walked into the Special Diet area in our local Whole Foods Market in Redmond, WA. Stated simply, shoppers at the Redmond Whole Foods have it good. With several hundred square feet of dedicated floorplan, the Special Diet area groups gluten free and other traditionally hard to find items into one section of the store. And did I mention it’s massive? “It’s always the thing visitors want to see” explains Liz Cruz, Whole Foods Marketing & Community Relations Specialist. Upon entering the area – really a market within a market – I cast my eyes on some items I haven’t seen before: Bob’s Red Mill certified gluten free oats (both steel cut and quick cooking), Gefen gluten free Passover brownie mixes, gluten free ice cream cones and more GF pizza and pie crusts than you can shake a stick at. As I walk the aisles, Cruz recounts some of the feedback her team has received. “The store has changed our lives” “I can do my shopping easily, like a mom should be able to” “Finding gluten free foods for my kids is no longer a big hassle” More and more Americans are finding themselves on a gluten free journey. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that as many as 1 in 20 Americans may have some form of gluten sensitivity. If you’re on this pathway yourself, you know that adopting a gluten free diet can be a major lifestyle upheaval. Limited food options impact one’s quality of life, which can be a scary thing. Cruz related another account, in which a shopper simply whispered to herself “It’s going to be OK” upon entering the Special Diet area for the first time. More than a convenient collection of healthy GF choices, the Special Diet area serves up something far more nurturing. It’s the sense that life can go on despite the at-times mountainous challenge of living gluten free. And the realization that support can be found within the community at large to a far greater extent than ever present before. Thinking about my own gluten free transition over 10 years ago, I marvel at how far GF awareness has come. It will be fun to see what the next ten years will bring for the gluten free community.
Beck, Melinda. “Clues to Gluten Sensitivity.” Wall Street Journal 15 Mar. 2011. 25 Mar. 2011: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200393522456636.html