The Palm Beach County Celiac Disease Support Group, under the direction of Phyllis Kessler, has started a fabulous and much-needed new program called GFFAP which stands for Gluten Free Food Assistance Program. Individuals with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis who live at or below the poverty line will be provided with $25 a month to purchase gluten-free food at designated area stores.

If you live in the Palm Beach County area and are interested in this program, please visit the website of the PBC support group

In the hopes that more celiac disease support groups might follow the lead of Palm Beach County, Phyllis graciously agreed to answer some questions.

What made you decide to start GFFAP?
I was shopping for gluten-free Italian bread which is very costly. It’s one of my few splurges. I was standing in line waiting to pay and asked myself, “What do people do if they can’t afford the high prices of everyday gluten free foods?” I answered that question in about a second — they go without. I couldn’t imagine people with celiac disease not eating gluten-free food for lack of money. That’s how the whole idea started.

All the support groups have fundraisers to help raise the awareness of celiac disease. With this program we’re actually helping individuals in need. Yes, raising awareness is paramount but helping people during hard times, one-on-one, is priceless.

Are there plans to expand the program?
For the first year we are going to offer the program to 30 people or families. In 2010 our goal is to reach 60 people or families.

What kind of response have you had so far?
We are just starting to spread the news and would love for the local newspapers to pick up the story.

How would you suggest other support groups go about starting their own program?
First, you must raise the funds you’re going to need. You don’t want to offer the program without having the necessary money in the bank. Then I’d suggest starting small. Offer the program to your members first before offering it to the general public. You also need to find stores that are willing to bill your group monthly and keep track of people assigned to their stores for the program. We selected four stores based on the geography of our group.

Kudos to Phyllis and the PBC Celiac Disease Support Group!

Copyright © by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD

Also available at:

Gluten-Free Food Assistance Program