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Nuts to Airlines

Internet stories, especially shockers, can circulate on social media indefinitely. How often have you see a story come around on a friend’s post, and found out later that the event actually happened several months or even years ago? (We’re not talking rumours that turn out to be untrue here, but stories that happened and continue to come around, like the celebrity who dies multiple times in various social media universes.)

This morning, a blog post appeared, detailing the story someone who had sent two unaccompanied teens home aboard a major carrier and then an airline partner flight across the ocean. So says the story, that apparently the kids were bumped from the flight after one disclosed a severe allergy to peanuts and the partner airline decided not to accommodate him. A little bit of research on our faithful internet reveals many stories such as this, from news articles to opinions expressed about such incidents.

As we have branched out to serve a more broad food allergic consumer group, we have been learning about food allergies and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). Succinctly stated by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) on their website (https://www.foodallergy.org), “Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, eating and breathing, and affect your heart and circulatory system, eating and your digestive system, breathing and your respiratory system, and more. All of these life activities are at risk for a person with a life-threatening food allergy.”

So, if you have severe food allergies, you’re covered under ADA, right? Not necessarily. Commercial airplanes are exempt from ADA, and covered under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). But what does this mean?

Generally speaking, Department of Transportation does not consider food allergies to be disabilities, though if a food allergy is sufficient to limit a major life activity (such as breathing!), then the allergic person meets the definition of person with disability (ABC News, June 6, 2017, https://abcnews.go.com/US/flying-peanut-allergies-airlines-react/story?id=47795670). The problems seem to really begin with a lack of clarity or continuity in how airline policies and employees, even within airlines, handle severe food allergies. The ACAA does state that airlines may not refuse transportation on the basis of a disability. The Act also states that airlines can exclude a person if having that person on board could compromise the safety of the flight- note this is not the same as the safety of the person with allergies.

Perspectives differ on this issue. The internet sphere abounds with comments from people who claim those with severe allergies should be kicked off flights rather than the other passengers give up their peanuts, while the other end of the spectrum is vocal as well, asking if people can’t just give up one little snack in order to allow someone to travel on a plane?

As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) “food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern” (February 14, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/foodallergies/index.htm.) The issue of how to best accommodate all air travelers is not set to fly off into the wild blue yonder any time soon.

Think Spring.

Sitting in a hotel room in Athens, GA, looking out on an unseasonably cold day, it’s a challenge to believe the “think spring!” message of the latest issue of Simply Gluten Free Magazine, gearing up for our first National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) regional conference. But spring will come, just like every season does annually, weather or not. And spring brings renewal, including a direction we’ve discussed moving toward for a while at Gem City Fine Foods.

One article in this March/April issue of Simply Gluten Free discusses the rise of chronic illnesses among children, among them asthma and mental health conditions, which can impede daily life. The subject is not a new one to those who have suffered from celiac disease or related conditions. “Have suffered” is the operative term here. Modern medicine has made it easier to diagnose celiac disease and gluten sensitivy, which means though more people are being diagnosed, more people, some who have suffered for decades, can be treated so their symptoms ease and their lives improve- usually dramatically.

Which leads us to our directional shift. For many years we have done our best to provide a superior gluten free ready-made desserts to those who follow a gluten free diet through grocery stores and more recently online (now via both Amazon and through our own online store.) You can now buy a truly decadent and safe dessert anywhere in the continental US, and that includes those diners with peanut and tree nut allergies. But are we touching the lives of everyone we could?

Recognizing an increase in food allergies among younger people, and the concerns parents and care givers have in sending them off to school, where they may find themselves in a less controlled environment, we want to have your back. We’re excited about the direction so many colleges and universities are taking in making dining areas and experiences accessible and safe to students and staff with food allergies.

We’ve had the pleasure of talking with several food service representatives from various schools in the US and Canada over the past few months, and are really looking forward to our foray into the NACUFS world, not only to showcase our certified gluten free, nut free, and even Top 8 free desserts for food service, but to learn more about how nutrition is shaping up on campuses today. The more we learn, the more we can help you and yours eat well and safely.

Our mission remains to build Gem City Fine Foods as the premier provider of delicious gluten free desserts. This spring we advance our mission as we advance our new direction, looking forward to meeting with those who can help, and to serving you.

Out and About and Meeting YOU!

Last week we had the pleasure of participating in our first Nourished Festival, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in southern California. We have been part of this event in the past, when called the GFAF Expo, and it was fun to see people coming to visit who follow a Keto, Paleo or Plant Based diet, in addition to those with gluten and nut allergies. And it felt really great to be able to say, “You can buy our products locally at Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres stores,” when last time we were able only to let customers know how to access Gem City Fine Foods desserts online. For those of you who shop in other stores, we are always working on getting our products into new locations so you can enjoy. Meanwhile, if you are in SoCal, please do check out the stores noted above, and give them some love.

Best of all, because we had a helper, we were able to leave the table to network with others. I found myself at the back of the hall hobnobbing with the food allergy authors, and am happy to share some of their information with you. First I stopped to talk with Tracy Hill, author of two beautiful cookbooks: Delightfully Free, with 141 gluten- dairy- and sugar-free recipes, and Even More Delightfully Free, with 166 gluten-. dairy-, refined sugar-, corn-, yeast-, soy-, oats-, peanut-, dye- and artificial sweetener-free recipes. See more at www.DelightfullyFree.com.

Then I enjoyed a conversation with Elizabeth of www.YourComfortForLife.com, a wellness strategist and lifestyle mentor who holds classes and has written a few books, most recently Bone Broth Meals. I was particularly interested in her book Survival for Sensitive & AutoImmune Skin, as someone who has experienced an increase in allergic reactions to skincare products in my own life recently. Elizabeth and I discussed the myriad ways chemicals can encroach through everyday life and the products we choose to use, including food.

Next was a visit with Angela of The FLog Journal. This is an incredibly comprehensive 6-month journal for people searching for their own food sensitivities. I wanted to purchase The FLog Journal, but it is large enough I wasn’t sure I’d have room for it in my suitcase! It’s available online, and in e-book format, so I can have it after all, and so can you. Check this gem out, and learn Angela’s story as you go through the pages on your own journey.

Before heading back to our table in the Nut Free Zone, I stopped to talk with Kathlena The Allergy Chef of Free and Friendly Foods about food allergies, and purchased The Corn Free, Gluten Free & Top 8 Allergy Free Cookbook, a brief hard cover book I found especially alluring because of the resources in the front. And super fun: Free and Friendly Foods has a blog all about allergy friendly foods- and Legos! Check that out at www.foodandlego.com.

If you happen to get in touch with any of the authors mentioned here, please let them know I sent you and that I truly appreciated the opportunity to meet each one last Sunday in Del Mar. And if we at Gem City Fine Foods haven’t met you yet in person, please take a look at our Events and Expos page to see where we will be next. We look forward to the opportunity!

With respect and commitment,
Lisa

Lisa Cox, CEO/ Sales and Marketing Manager

More Research, More Firepower

I just ran across a feature in The Scientist Magazine from June 2017: The Celiac Surge. We are often frustrated in the search for recent statistics on celiac prevalence, with the most common numbers thrown out there being 1 in 133 people in the US diagnosed, or about 1% of the population, and another 3 million thought to be gluten sensitive. But these figures are more than a decade old- and seem low to those of us who provide gluten free options for the consumer.

So I was please to read this article, even though it’s nearly two years old, in which a study across a Denver area group, extrapolated to fit the general population, found the prevalence of celiac disease to be closer to 3% of people by age 15.

I don’t mean it was pleasing to learn that there are actually a higher number of people afflicted with celiac, according to this study, but that research continues to grow to support the fact that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are REAL. Sadly, too many people still scoff at the notion, and as a result, those who suffer are not taken seriously and not only are deprived of good gluten free food choices, but are placed at risk of being exposed to gluten in dining situations in which the condition is neglected.

Below is a link to the article mentioned here. And I encourage those of you who have been diagnosed or suspect you are celiac or gluten sensitive to take advantage of the resources that exist to help you navigate. For instance, the Celiac Disease Foundation offers a free Symptoms Assessment Tool, links to clinical trials, and more. There are organizations and people who support those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, and the more research, the more information that becomes available, the more ammunition we have in the battle to make the celiac and gluten sensitive- and other food allergic- voice heard.

https://www.the-scientist.com/features/the-celiac-surge-31438?fbclid=IwAR1bBEZyCZBiZidFfHuEfBMKNZs_yVeCb_d_9GmlfLRoN8PJNsFDXzUABZ8#.XFHZCX106R0.facebook

With respect and commitment,
Lisa

#ChefsForFeds

Chef Jose Andres, recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for disaster relief efforts through his non-profit World Central Kitchen, is in the news again, this time for working to feed furloughed federal workers through #ChefsForFeds. The initiative opened last week at Pennsylvania Avenue, right in downtown Washington, DC, and now is spreading around the country.

To see a current list of locations, click on this link: https://www.worldcentralkitchen.org/chefsforfeds

The chef and restaurateur announced the expansion of services and call for volunteers on Twitter. You can follow him and the movement @chefjoseandres.

The World Central Kitchen website details a number of projects from a chef’s eye view to solve challenges of hunger and poverty around the world with health, education, career and business initiatives based around the kitchen.

Chef Jose Andres has asked us all to spread the word about #ChefsForFeds. We like the mission, and are spreading the word about World Central Kitchen. Check out the website for yourself.

Survey Says…

Thanks to everyone who completed our recent short survey asking how we can better serve our customers.

The results were not only very interesting, but extremely helpful to us as we enter a new year and polish up our goals.

Here are some highlights:
– Nearly a third order our products online.
o You may be happy to hear that you can now order directly from our website. Just go to www.gemcityfinefoods.com and click on the link in the right hand side bar. Check occasionally for in-house specials that you won’t find on Amazon.

– More than 15% have purchased our desserts at Costco.
o While we wait for the next round, if you are local to the SLC/ West Valley City, UT area, our next bakery sale will be held on Friday, February 8, from 8am to 4pm at our bakery location. Wholesale cases at wholesale prices.

– Nearly 2/3 prefer that shipping be included in the price when ordering online.
o Thank you for this feedback! We had considered listing items at retail price and then adding shipping for each order, but your overwhelming preference for the way we do it now has solidified our commitment to keeping the current system in place.

– Not surprisingly, the biggest concern in ordering online is price.
o Be assured we are committed to keeping prices as low as we can while still shipping in a way that gets the product to you in good shape, frozen or cold – the second largest concern among respondents. We will do our best to lower prices over time, with online success.

– Most are willing to pay more for certified gluten free but would like to see prices more affordable.
o We agree! We’ll continue to do our best to bring a high quality dessert at the most affordable price we can manage. We would love to see gluten free across the board be more affordable as more people realize the importance of gluten free to so many.

– Nearly half of respondents are celiac or gluten sensitive. And another 30% eat gluten free because they feel better.
o This response is so important, as we go into the field and share the value with retail and food service buyers, distributors and others in the food industry, as well as on social media and in public engagements, part of our mission to help others understand celiac, gluten sensitivity and food allergies.
* An example recent interview in which we get the word out: https://content.jwplatform.com/videos/uwptsdHn-PLDs2Cm5.mp4
o Nearly 20% have a friend or family member who’s gluten free and eat gluten free in solidarity (thank you for supporting your loved ones!), and gee, more than 5% don’t eat gluten free but just love our desserts (thank you for trying us and loving us!)

– When asked about sustainability, more than half appreciate our clean, chemical-free ingredients, and even more prefer organic or non-GMO.
o And there are quite a few die hard dessert lovers out there who just don’t care!

– More than 20% are all about local, and another 20% want to know the supplier reduces its facility footprint.
o As happy Utah’s Own members who recently implemented several footprint-reducing measures including replacing Styrofoam with green-cell foam packaging for all our online sales and sample shipments and putting a water cooler with direct line in the breakroom and replacing bottled water with reusable metal water bottles for our employees, we say, “Stick around and see what comes next!”

– And here is the big one: Nearly half of respondents would like to see a Chocolate Caramel Swirl Cheesecake next- more than twice as many responses as to any other item on the list.
o So you will get it! We have moved this dessert to the top of our product development list, with plans to release before April!

– Last, many were not sure they will be able to attend any of our demos or expo events this year. Please do keep an eye on our website Events and Expos page, though, just in case…

We always welcome feedback that can help us make a bigger and better difference to those who are celiac, gluten sensitive, food allergic, or just love dessert, and their friends and families. Please visit our website to find contact information for the person at Gem City who can answer your questions and concerns.

Thanks again to all survey respondents, and CONGRATULATIONS to our survey winner of a 4-pack of Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes, Angela Thomas!

Help Wanted!

Happy new year, all!

We would like to ask your help for 2019 so we can better serve our celiac, gluten sensitive, food allergic and quality dessert loving friends. Please click on the survey link below and respond by January 15. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes of your time, and to sweeten the pot, on the 15th we will choose a random survey respondent to win a FREE dessert or sampler of choice, to be delivered to your door! Just answer all 10 questions, and in the final comment box put your email address so we can contact you if you are the WINNER!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KV8X2WX

Thanks for helping us better serve you, and good luck!

Sweet Dessert

Don’t tell our owner, but I got him a book called Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert for his birthday, which falls on January 11. (Don’t worry; he won’t likely read this blog post and find out for himself.) The book, by Michael Krondl, inspired me to finally fight through writer’s block, sit down and write a new post for you all.

It’s sweet and luscious: dessert.

Krondl explains right off the bat: People love sweets. He posits, “While the liking for sweetness is undoubtedly evolutionary in origin, dessert is a purely cultural phenomenon. From a biological standpoint, dessert is frivolous, unnecessary, and even harmful in excess, yet that’s precisely why it’s interesting. When you talk about dessert you step away from analyzing basic human needs to a conversation about culture.” And he goes on to reveal desserts as cultural phenomena, from an historical perspective- after reminding us that we humans are hardwired to like sweetness. After all, “the body is no more than a chemical processing unit that runs on water, oxygen and sugar,” he reports in simple terms.

 

While it’s true that desserts are often vilified as unhealthy, and in excess can be, a regular little dose of sweetness can boost the mood, and desserts in moderation have other benefits as well. Chocolate can lower blood pressure. A small slice of cake can help curb cravings. And many sources agree that reaching for a dessert when watching weight can help people be more mindful of what they are eating, as they enjoy that little treat.

Top of the list on Nation’s Restaurant News food trend predictions for 2019 are desserts with a “better-for-you spin.” Examples: sweetened and chocolate hummus and ice cream with an olive oil drizzle. I’ll stick to more traditional sweets when I do eat dessert (which isn’t often, fortunately for me, working in the business!)

Wherever you stand on the dessert issue: Good in moderation or bad bad bad, homemade decadence or cutting edge superfood-infused, we remind those of you who are celiac, gluten sensitive, nut-allergic or vegan, whether by choice or because of food allergies, Gem City Fine Foods will continue to accommodate your sweet tooth in 2019 with rich, top quality frozen desserts made from clean ingredients and certified gluten free, made in a dedicated gluten- and nut-free bakery. New for online purchase are a four-pack of Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (look for them in stores and cafeterias as we move along), and we are close to finishing the Red Velvet Cake many of you have requested. In honor of the healthier dessert trend, we are also working on a fiber rich Carrot Cupcake, and by next holiday season you will see our award-winning Flourless Chocolate Torte with a flavor twist!

Stick with us in the new year, be in touch with your wishes, and we look forward to visiting with many of you during the year as we participate in another full calendar of expos and trade shows. And if you run into Owner Rick or me and want to borrow that book, just let us know. If we’re done with it (yes, I did have an ulterior motive for buying it for his birthday), he’ll be happy to pass it along.

Cheers to a new year!

Lisa, CEO/Sales and Marketing Manager

We’re #61!

Just in time to launch us out of at least a week of writer’s block, today we received an email that we’re No. 61 on the Feedspot Top 75 Dessert Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Watch in 2018!

The coolest part of being on this list is looking at all the others that came in before, after and around us. There are some beautiful odes to dessert out there in the online world! No. 1 Sprinkle Bakes by Heather in Knoxville, TN, features some great photos and recipes to get you ready to bake, especially at this time of year, when holidays send us into the kitchen more. No. 2 OMG Chocolate Desserts…Vera, OMG what a gorgeous blog! And Ashton in NC, at Something Swanky is currently featuring 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. We are counting and drooling!

Many of the blogs on the list offer up healthy options, or attend to the food allergic or low-no sugar baker and dessert lover. For instance, Jessica in Austin, TX, at No. 5 Desserts with Benefits provides recipes for a number of different diets, from keto and fat free to gluten free and raw. At No. 12, Victoria in Canada, a classically trained chef, gives you healthy vegan desserts, and No. 13 Wink Frozen Desserts in NYC treat you to their Top 8 free plant-based ice creams with only 100 calories per pint (but no shortage of flavor, we can attest, having enjoyed these frozen goodies ourselves).

We could keep going, but would rather leave the list to you to check out. Who knows what you’ll find? Remember to look for us at No. 61, and maybe you’ll see us in a higher slot next year. Until then, whether you bake at home or buy your sweet tooth satisfier, enjoy dessert!

Holiday Mile It!

Hi, everyone.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and the beginning of several weeks of weight gain opportunity.

Allow yourself to destress and stay healthy by joining our team in the Holiday Mile, and online challenge to walk, run, bike or swim a mile each day, Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day- that’s 40 miles if you do one a day!

We have formed a team called Gem City Fine Foods, and the first 10 spots are FREE registration! Just click on the link below and register as an individual on a team, select our team, and when checking out, enter discount code gem2018.

You will receive a t-shirt and medal for participating, one lucky team member will receive a $25 gift card, to be disbursed mid-December, just in time for last-minute holiday expenses. And every day that you check in after meeting your goal, you get a chance at a Weekly Prize.

Join us for this fun way to stay healthy over the holidays. Sign up before 9pm today to join our team for free!

http://www.5kevents.org/holiday_mile.html

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