For over thirty years, the National Celiac Association (NCA) has offered support, education and advocacy for people with celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. Today, with roughly 10,000 members, the NCA is the largest nonprofit celiac support group in the United States.
In December 1977, Pat Murphy Garst was diagnosed with celiac disease. With few resources available for celiacs at the time, Garst took what information she could find and wrote one of the first cookbooks designed specifically for gluten-free living. Not satisfied with simply providing recipes, Garst wanted to create a support group for families living with celiac disease, and contacted each person who had purchased her cookbook. In January 1978, Garst, together with 12 other individuals, formed the Midwest Celiac Association (MNCA), based out of Des Moines, Iowa. By the following February, the organization had grown to support members in 11 states.
Today, the National Celiac Association has 125 Chapters and 65 Resource Units across the United States, all run primarily by volunteers. The NCA is staffed by an executive director and support team as well as a medical advisory board. The organization continues to provide education, support and advocacy for celiac patients around the world.
Publishing and Education
The primary mission of the NCA is to make educational materials available to those living with celiac disease. The NCA maintains a comprehensive educational resource to help diagnosed celiacs learn the basics of living a gluten-free lifestyle. In addition, they have several other helpful databases on the website:
- Gluten-Free Nation Magazine: The quarterly newsletter of the NCA, Gluten-Free Nation keeps NCA members abreast of celiac-related research, events NCA news as well as offering recipes, product information and personal success stories.
- NCA Gluten-Free Restaurant Directory: This reference lists stores and restaurants suitable for gluten-free lifestyles. The guide also features tips on gluten-free living and shopping, a glossary of terms, and contact information for manufacturers.
The NCA further facilitates gluten-free living through the implementation of the gluten-free Seal of Recognition. This seal on product packages assures consumers that the product contains no more than 20 parts per million gluten and is a safe food choice for any level of gluten sensitivity.
Advocacy and Support
A new diagnosis of celiac disease can be frightening and bewildering. One of the most effective ways to work through these emotions is with the support of other people coping with similar concerns. Because of this, providing support and a sense of community to people with celiac disease is one of the NCA's primary goals. To help achieve this goal, the NCA website offers membership where you can find additional resources, news, and support for living the GF lifestyle.
Living with celiac disease can be difficult for adults, but even more so for children. To help support parents and kids, the NCA website provides a 'tool kit' to help parents communicate with their child's school. The tool kit is free for non-members and members alike.
Additionally, the NCA actively advocates for celiac interests with private industries, governmental regulations and the general public. Through awareness campaigns, government lobbying and the exchange of information, the NCA works toward transparent product labeling, full information disclosure NCA public celiac awareness.
National Celiac Association Memberships
You do not need to be a member of the NCA to benefit from its work, but as a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization the NCA relies upon NCA funds to cover publishing and administrative costs. Memberships are affordable and cover your entire family for a full year. Members receive a subscription to Lifeline Magazine, a number of information pamphlets and advocacy materials, and registration discounts for the annual NCA Conference. More importantly, with an NCA membership you become part of a nationwide organization devoted to increasing the quality of life for people living with celiac disease.