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It seems everywhere you turn, there’s a new “trending diet” hitting the market: Keto, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, Atkins, pescatarian…the list goes on and on. Adopting new and healthier eating habits is certainly a good thing, but did you know there are so many people out there who don’t have a choice but to maintain a strict diet?
Take local Girl Scout, Alyssa Budweg, for example. Alyssa has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is digested. Because of this, she is medically restricted to a completely gluten-free diet. Just one crumb of bread can make her sick for three weeks! Alyssa has noticed restaurants hopping on the “gluten-free fad” train, and have been advertising gluten-free food. As positive and progressive this may seem, she says many restaurants don’t take enough care to ensure the food is truly gluten-free enough for a person medically requiring a gluten-free diet.
As Alyssa was approaching the age to start her Gold Award, she saw this as a perfect opportunity to improve the lives of the gluten-free community. She reached out to State Representative, Matt Koleszar, and with the help of her support group, Tri-County Celiac Support Group (TCCSG), they began working on legislation that requires restaurants to ensure food is truly gluten-free per FDA definition. Since February, they’ve dedicated several hours towards perfecting the bill. Just a few weeks ago, Alyssa and TCCSG approved the revised draft and they are currently waiting for internal coordination to occur between bill drafters, and then they’ll finally be ready to present it in front of the House of Representatives!
Pretty cool, right?!
Even with so much going on in her life, Alyssa continues to be heavily involved her community. She created a teen support group within TCCSG that gives others her age an opportunity to meet and share similar experiences from Celiac Disease. Through this group, she has organized numerous events, including annual Halloween parties, a gluten-free cooking class, and gluten-free canned-food drives for Gleaner’s Food Bank. Being medically restricted to a gluten-free diet comes with a heavier price tag that not many can afford. So far, they’ve collected and donated 686 lbs. of food to those who need it most.
To support Alyssa’s ongoing efforts, please visit (and like) her Facebook page!