STATE COLLEGE - The first Central Pa. Gluten-free Expo, co-hosted by Central Pa. Newspapers and the State College Celiac Support Group, is set for Sunday in State College. The event includes local and national vendors, educational seminars, giveaways and guest speakers.
"As more and more people are diagnosed with celiac disease or dealing with gluten sensitivities, we view this expo as a service to our network of readers and the community," said Matthew Bolich, The Lewistown Sentinel's advertising director and coordinator for the Central Pa. Gluten Free Expo. "Some of our staff's family members need to eat gluten free, so our company understands the challenges involved. We are hopeful that those living a gluten free lifestyle throughout Lycoming County and the Susquehanna Valley will visit this regional event."
The purpose of the expo is to show people the variety of gluten free food and supportive resources that are available to them, said Heidi Watson, president of the State College Celiac Support Group. The event is about showing those who have celiac disease how to live well and be healthy, she said.
"I'd like people on a gluten free diet to know that it's not as hard as it may seem," Watson said. "We'll have a number of seminars to answer questions and some really tasty food for them to try. It's all about spreading awareness."
Of the more than 30 confirmed vendors, Central Pennsylvania businesses include Herlocher Foods, Sunflower Cafe and Bakery and Tonya's Gluten Free Kitchen. National companies participating include Udi's, Glutino, Namaste and Goldbaum's.
At 1 p.m., keynote speaker Alice Bast, founder and president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, will take the stage to discuss taking an active approach to personal health.
"A number of our board members are from that area so I was thrilled and honored to be asked to the expo," Bast said.
"I'll be talking about how to embrace living life on a gluten free diet. It's about acceptance, empowerment and staying proactive."
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those with celiac disease through education, empowerment, advocacy and research, Bast said. Oct. 10 marked the organization's 10-year anniversary.
"The expo is a great opportunity to bring the work we're doing to central Pennsylvania," Bast said. "I'm hoping people walk away knowing they can come to us as a one stop resource and that they don't have to be afraid to eat."
A seminar also will be presented by Wegmans nutritionist Marda Heuman at 4:15 p.m. and a Celiac 101 session presented by the State College Celiac Support Group at 3 p.m.
The Central Pa. Gluten-free Expo runs from noon to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Ramada Conference Center, 1450 S. Atherton St. Tickets are available in advance or at the door. Children 16 or younger are free. The first 500 attendees will receive a tote bag courtesy of Wegmans and Betsy's Bakery.
Tickets can be purchased at the Sun-Gazette office, 252 W. Fourth St., during normal business hours, Wegmans, Sunflower Cafe and Bakery, by calling 800-827-6397 or online at http://bit.ly/1afheLC or at the expo.
For more information on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, visit www.celiaccentral.org. Additional information on the expo also can be found on Facebook.