Cynthia Kupper is Executive Director of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG), the nations first non-profit association with the mission to improve the health and lives of those living gluten-free. In this leadership role for more than 17 years, she has helped GIG obtain a strong national presence, increased its net assets by more than 500 percent, and expanded its reach to 80+ affiliate groups in the U.S. and internationally. She has fostered GIGs ability to support and educate people with gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and non celiac gluten sensitivity.
Cynthia earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA and began her career working for a regional hospital and nursing home in western Montana. She worked more than 12 years as a diabetes educator for a large Puget Sound medical center while volunteering for GIG during its formative years.
Cynthia first experienced celiac disease symptoms herself 21 years ago, which prompted her to begin volunteering for GIG. She became further involved with the organization by starting a gluten-free support group and working closely with GIG’s founding Executive Director Elaine Hartsook, PhD, RD, who was considered a pioneer in creating medical awareness for celiac disease. Elaine passed away in 1996, and Cynthia became the organizations executive director.
In addition to her responsibilities at GIG, Cynthia has been active in a variety of organizations. Her love for animals led to her 18-year volunteer commitment with Guide Dogs for the Blind, where she has raised more than 25 seeing-eye dogs. She was an active member of Toastmasters, a speaking and leadership organization, and has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, consumer publications and a continuing education manual on GI disorders. In addition, she has led the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Team for five years in developing recommendations and management guidelines for dietitians treating persons with celiac disease. She was also a member of the development team for the Academy’s Celiac Disease Toolkit, formed the Dietitians in the Gluten Intolerance Diseases, and is the chairperson for the Medical Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group.
Ms. Kupper has numerous peer-reviewed and consumer publications to her credit, including a continuing education manual for Dietitians. She was an invited expert speaker for the National Institutes of Health for the Celiac Disease Symposium and before the FDA related to labeling regulations for gluten-free labeling. She has appeared on radio and television programs across the nation.
GLUTEN INTOLERANCE GROUP OF NORTH AMERICA FACT SHEET
What is a gluten-free diet?
Gluten refers to certain proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. People with gluten-related disorders cannot tolerate the proteins found in foods containing these grains, and eating them can cause serious health problems, including malnourishment, chronic fatigue and damage to the small intestine.
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, founded in 1974, was the first organization to help people diagnosed with gluten reactions to identify safe and appetizing gluten-free foods.
What is the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG)?
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit association funded by private donations, membership proceeds and industry programs. It relies on tax-deductible contributions to support its many innovative industry, service, social and awareness programs. GIG has been a highly respected leader in the gluten-free community since it was founded in 1974. In addition to 80+ local branches across the United States, GIG has also increased its presence internationally to 15 countries. It is headquartered in Auburn, WA. More information is available at www.gluten.net.
History of GIG
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) was founded in 1974 by Dietitian Elaine Hartsook, PhD, RD and started as a family-run organization. Elaine, GIGs first executive director, was a cancer researcher at the University of Washington and led the non-profit group for 20 years. Elaine was considered a top international expert in celiac disease until her death in 1996, which prompted the leadership of Cynthia Kupper, GIGs current executive director.
Registered Dietitian Cynthia Kupper has expanded GIG in a number of ways. For more than 17 years she has developed a variety of service programs to promote safe gluten-free practices for the food manufacturing and food service industries. She has also enabled GIG to teach and support consumers about gluten-related disorders through annual education events, magazines, educational materials and the use of the internet. She has expanded GIGs practices nationally and internationally.
After 15 years of clinical dietetic experience, Cynthia founded “Dietitians in Gluten-Intolerance Diseases” (DIGID), which is a specialty group within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics working to provide quality materials and education to dietitians about gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis and non celiac gluten sensitivity. In addition, she has led the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Evidence Analysis Team for five years in developing management guidelines for dietitians treating persons with celiac disease. She received her Bachelors degree from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA.
What does GIG do for members and others?
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) supports and educates its members and those living gluten-free by informing the public and health professionals about its industry, social and awareness programs. Its 80+branches enable GIG to care for people with gluten-related disorders on a local and regional level through programs tailored to their communities. GIG envisions a healthy gluten-free community in which all persons are involved, contributing citizens.
What are GIG’s social programs?
1. Youth Programs include GIGs Celiac Kids Club magazine, GIG Kids Camps and Teen Advocates with Gluten Sensitivities (TAGS). Celiac Kids Club is a quarterly magazine that connects and educates children with gluten sensitivities on safe alternatives for gluten-containing foods through recipes, games and activities. It is written by Calli and Victoria Garcia, a mother-daughter team from Colorado.
GIG Kids Camps help children attend gluten-free week at Camp Kanata in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Camp Sealth in Vashon Island, Washington, each year. These integrated summer camp programs give children with gluten sensitivities a chance to have a great experience and sets parents minds at ease because they do not worry about the food making their child sick.
TAGS is a program designed to help teenagers be positive advocates and leaders for themselves as well as for children following a gluten-free lifestyle. It is a program where teenagers can share stories and provide support for other teens dealing with gluten sensitivities.
2. Local and regional education meetings are held each year with top-notch speakers and interactive exhibits to help educate consumers about gluten-related disorders and healthy gluten-free living. GIGs education programs are an opportunity for our sponsors, our members, as well as gluten-sensitive individuals and families to learn more together.
3. Free educational handouts, such as the Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide, contain facts and information to teach individuals how to have a healthier gluten-free lifestyle and can be found at www.gluten.net.
4. An informative blog provides tips and updates on trends within the gluten-free industry.
5. GIG’s Facebook page offers a way for GIG to communicate with individuals about gluten-related disorders. With over 7,000 “likes,” it is a way for GIG to quickly answer consumer’s questions and share information.
What is GIG doing to increase awareness of gluten-related disorders?
1. Chef to Plate: Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP) Chef to Plate is an awareness campaign designed to spread awareness of gluten-related disorders to people all over the world using restaurants which offer gluten-free menu options. The campaign focuses our main activities during Celiac Disease Awareness month in May. During the year we focus on educating food services about the importance of established policies and procedures for providing safe gluten-free meals. In 2012, more than 1300 restaurants participated and the program reached over 8 million people. Please visit www.gluten.net and click on the Programs tab to learn more.
Participating restaurants provide service to people following a gluten-free diet by creating gluten-free meals from their existing menus. Companies such as the Outback Steakhouse, The Melting Pot, Garlic Jims Gourmet Pizza and Cameron Mitchell’s Seafood have used this program.
2. Outreach programs, such as Autism Day and Gluten-Free Awareness Night at the Seattle Mariners baseball game, help inform individuals about gluten sensitivities.
Autism Day is a free, fun-filled event designed for families touched by autism who may be interested in a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free food and information are provided at this opportunity for families to relax in a beautiful setting surrounded by people who understand.
GIG has teamed up with the Seattle Mariners for Gluten-Free Awareness Night. GIG provides a display and is available to answer questions about gluten-related disorders. The stadium has vendors who serve gluten-free concessions, including hot dogs and beer. Reduced ticket prices are made available to those in attendance with GIG.
What are GIG’s industry programs?
1. Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) is the first and foremost gluten-free certification program in the world that has deemed more than 10,000 products produced in 15 countries safe for gluten-free persons to consume. Its GF logo signifies the independent verification of product quality, integrity and purity. Companies such as ConAgra Mills, Hains Celestial and Natures Path have GFCO certified products. Please visit www.gfco.org for additional information.
2. Gluten-Free Food Service (GFFS) is a management accreditation program designed to work with all types of food service establishments that serve gluten-free consumers. This program uses training and management strategies to teach employees proper techniques for gluten-free food preparation. Companies such as the Gaylord Resorts, Erlanger Health System and The University of Chicago Medical Center participate in this program. Please visit www.gffoodservice.org for more information.
Additional GIG Services found at www.gluten.net
In addition to its industry, social and awareness programs, GIG offers more gluten-free services on its website. On the home page, persons can find a gluten-free recipe database categorized by breakfast items, entrees, desserts, beverages, etc. Individuals can share recipes by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, more details on how to start a local GIG branch and the benefits of becoming a GIG member can be found at www.gluten.net.
Who to contact for more information?
Cynthia Kupper, RD
GIG Executive Director
Lola ORourke, RD
GIG Director, Consumer Education
31214 124th Ave SE
Auburn, WA 98092