Being away from home and travelling to new places is always an eye-opener. At home, I know where all my resources are; in another city, I have to search and ask. One result of our travel was that I became a gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, weight-watching activist. I wanted to find healthy food in general and food I can eat in particular—in, for example, restaurants, hotels, and airports. The question was: how could I best do this?
The answer came to me in a museum where my husband and I, tired and hungry, stopped at its cafeteria for a snack. The choices were cookies and cupcakes, pretzels and potato chips, and assorted drinks.
Much against my will, I bought the only snack I could tolerate although it meant throwing my diet out the window: potato chips. And much against my dislike of being labeled a complainer, I decided to speak up. “Would you consider carrying gluten-free products?” I asked. “I can’t eat most of what you have.”
After agreeing with me that their selection was poor, the sales clerk said, “We should have something. So many people are having gluten problems, aren’t they?”
I had noticed that the cafeteria didn’t make its own food, that everything was packaged, and nothing required refrigeration. “You could carry Larabars,” I suggested. “Some of them are gluten-free and dairy-free.”
She got out a pencil and paper. “Could you spell that?” she asked.
I don’t know if the museum cafeteria has stocked the bars but, at that moment, I’d taken my first step into GF activism. In speaking out, I’d compelled an establishment to acknowledge a lack of GF products and think about an alternative.
Since then, I’ve made a point of talking to people in hotels, restaurants, and food markets about food selection at their place of business. Here are some of my strategies for raising awareness and encouraging managers to rethink their food purchases: