Day in DC Already Producing Results
Last week I went to Capitol Hill with Living Without editor Alicia Woodward, gluten-free manufacturers, representatives from support groups and medical centers, and the American Celiac Disease Alliance executive director, Andrea Levario. My 24-year-old son took the day off and joined us.
I’m impressed that I got to hobnob with some pretty influential people - senators, congressional representatives, the heads of major gluten-free food companies, and such. I’m overwhelmed by the fact that we were listened to, and, at the end of the day, we stood in front of an 11-foot tall gluten-free cake and heard the Deputy Commissioner for Food at the FDA tell us we had gotten the FDA's attention, thanks to the over 9,000 letters you wrote to FDA and HHS. Like so much of Washington, DC, this was monumental.
But what really impressed me was the fact that even my 24-year-old son was impressed. It’s not easy to make an impression on a kid, especially your own. I do so much of this volunteer work on behalf of celiac patients because of him. I do this activist work because it might make a difference in his life. It might mean that people with celiac disease have a chance to move one step closer to having a normal life, a life in which they will feel safe with the food they are eating and will not worry that they might ingest something that will make them ill.
Last week, my son got it. Immersed in the legislative process, he understood how life-altering our day on Capitol Hill had been. On our trip back to Connecticut, he asked how he could help. He even offered to take a sabbatical from his own job to work with us. I think many people are asking similar questions.
If you want to help, go to the American Celiac Disease Alliance website, where you will find information on writing your congressperson and senators and donating to this grassroots, volunteer organization.
If you think your voice and mine are not making a difference, I want to assure you that our meetings have produced results. Andrea Levario reports that we've already gotten feedback from several offices (Senator Gillibrand and Representatives Connolly and Langevin), that they had been in touch with the FDA on our behalf.
Yesterday, I got word that our Congressman, Joe Courtney from Connecticut, signed the letter from Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia asking the FDA to release the gluten-free labeling standards. If your congressman has not signed this letter, you can ask them to do that, too. You’ll find information on the Alliance website. Congresswomen Betty McCollum and Nita Lowey have already told us they want to play a key role in moving these FDA labeling standards forward. They both attended the BIG Cake reception at Embassy Suites.
Our longtime champion, Representative Lowey, stopped by to support the community, celebrate awareness month and the re-introduction of her bill, H. Res. 246, in support of May as Celiac Awareness Month. You can find out more about having your Congressional representatives endorse this bill at the Alliance website, too.
If you were not able to join us for cake in Washington, we missed you. But there will be lots of other opportunities to help. I’ve mentioned a few above. Tell us your ideas. Let us know what you think.
Beth Hillson is Living Without's Food Editor.