When Jen Cafferty, a certified health coach and founder/CEO of Gluten Free Media Group, started a small gluten-free cooking class with food samples in the Chicago area 10 years ago, she realized she was on to something special. “People loved sampling the foods,” she recalls. “I thought we should expand and see if more companies were willing to come and let people try their products. We expanded, and the concept of a vendor fair really took off.”
That vendor fair became the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo, a lifestyle show focused on providing gluten-free food samples, education by health practitioners and other products for people with gluten issues and various food allergies. The expo—now in nine cities throughout the U.S.—takes place in Dallas from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., October 28, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., October 29, at the Dallas Market North Hall.
Cafferty credits Rose Mary Simmons and Linda Fitzerman, founders of the Dallas Gluten Intolerance Group, for helping expand the Expo from Chicago to Dallas six years ago. “This expo is important because it’s not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” Cafferty emphasizes. “It’s where people can learn about products they’re buying at the store, home cooking, doctors specializing in dietary restrictions and where to find gluten-free options while traveling and dining out.”
All food and product samples at the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo must be gluten-free, Cafferty notes. In recent years, the expo has expanded to include other types of allergens. All food and product samples are labeled so people will know exactly what’s in those items.
In addition to food vendors, there are many other types of exhibitors focused on gluten-free, allergen friendly living. “We now have a lot of health practitioners, allergen-friendly skin care items, supplements companies and non-toxic cleaning products—all things appropriate for anybody with a gluten-free lifestyle,” she says. “The medical community has a presence here to talk about autoimmune conditions and anti-inflammatory disorders. Any medical professionals or nonprofits that help people with dietary needs are very welcome at our Expo.”
Cafferty is frequently asked if the gluten-free lifestyle is a fad. “My philosophy is that people are finally realizing that when they don’t feel well, maybe changing their diets can help them feel better,” she says. “That’s what’s driving this, and people are taking their health in their own hands.”
The Gluten Free Media Group also offers the Find Me Gluten Free website (FindMeGlutenFree.com) and free app that serves as a restaurant finder for the gluten-free community. It features over 3 million people sharing their experiences with restaurants, as well as dining suggestions.
Location: 22 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas. For pricing and tickets, visit GFAFExpo.com.
For more stories like this read Natural Awakenings Dallas magazine at NADallas.com