While “going gluten free” is a nationwide trend that involves as many as 30% of American adults, according to the latest count from NPD Group, some senior living providers are shifting food services to accommodate those who suffer from Celiac Disease, an autoimmune response to gluten.
Sun City, Arizona continuing care retirement community Grandview Terrace recently spent $12,000 on bringing its kitchen and food preparation up to gluten-free certification when its administrators became aware of a prospective resident with an allergy to the protein in wheat, rye and barley. The recognition by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness of becoming a Gluten-Free resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) Kitchen makes it the first in senior housing community in Arizona to fulfill the requirements.
“This was not for the diet or the fad, but to manage the medical condition,” says Bhakti Gosalia, executive director for Grandview Terrace.
The upfront investment was substantial, according to Grandview’s execs, but the community says it is already beginning to see returns on the investment through more interest in the concept.
The shift required a partial kitchen overhaul to introduce new equipment and preparation space, but training also proved costly from the standpoint of both time and expense. Training involved both kitchen staff and Grandview’s food service personnel to a color coded system and education about cross-contamination.
The upfront costs amounted to both the monetary investment and training more than a dozen staff, but the community says will pay off and already has begun to with not only the resident Grandview set out to serve with its gluten-free undertaking but other residents—and prospective residents—taking an interest as well.
A recent event in conjunction with a celiac support group sparked interest from several potential residents as to the gluten free offerings.
“Several stopped by to know more about the community, even those not part of the celiac group,” Gosalia says. “When they heard we had the event many came just for that even though they may or may not have had celiac disease.”
Written by Elizabeth Ecker