In 2000, Nancy Sherry Baker was diagnosed with celiac disease. Upon going to the grocery store the first time after leaving the hospital, she found only one item labeled with the words gluten-free. The resources she was given from her gastroenterologist and the dietitian were not only limited, they conflicted with each other and included subsequently incorrect information. In short time after diagnosis, Nancy found herself with limited resource and what she could find was incredibly expensive and often contaminated with gluten in production or just plain awful. She made the decision that it was not work paying $14 for a loaf of bread on the internet nor $8 for the fickle mix.

Within two months of diagnoses Nancy was faced with another challenge which in then end turned out to be an incredible blessing. Nancy and her family were transferred to Budapest, Hungary. So not only did she need to master the gluten-free diet, she needed to do so on another continent and in another language. While living for the next seven years as an expat in Europe, Nancy was exposed not only to different country’s unique approaches to the diet, but her international group of colleagues also introduced her to inherently gluten-free recipes from their home countries.

The American approach to the gluten-free diet at the time, was to replicate current foods as best as one could, using gluten-free ingredients. While that was the case to a certain extent in other countries, Nancy found that by taking a step back one could see far more recipes which were not gluten-free by design but met her dietary needs. In this exposure, she was exposed to different cooking techniques and ingredients she other wise would have never seen before.

And thus,  the cookbook Globally- Gluten Free was born not just from her need, but from the generosity of those in her community.

Nancy also saw the availability of services and training for manufacturers and those in food service in Europe. When she moved back to the US, Nancy set about to use her background in education to create a simple curriculum to introduce the food industry to gluten-free protocols. She cooperated with dietitians and chefs to create a curriculum which would easily accessible, quick to adopt, and basic to understand. When it got on its feet, Nancy donated the program GREAT (Gluten-free Resource Education Awareness Training) to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and took the position as their director of education.

In 2007 NFCA and Nancy made the decision to take GREAT to the influencers in the food production and service community. While other organizations filled the important role of celiac patient support and education, the NFCA ventured outside the community – making a conscious decision to convince the industry that they could produce safe, tasty, and affordable gluten-free foods to those living with celiac disease.  Attending all of the major food conventions: speaking at session, hosting booths, and meeting with companies for four years helped change the tide in the gluten-free industry.

Struggles with systemic lupus caused Nancy to pass the torch to her wonderful colleagues. Eight years after her initial entry into the gluten-free market-place Nancy delights in looking at the options on the shelves and on menus. She considers it a privilege to have been able to share her vision and talents with the community and work along side many  wonderful, dedicated and talented people.

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