Saturday, July 27, 2013

Even small towns offer GF options

My hometown: Bolivar (MO)
I grew up and lived most of my life in the small southwest Missouri town of Bolivar. My father took a job as superintendent of the public schools and moved my family there in 1966, when I was eight years old. With nearly every amenity a person could ever need--outstanding schools, abundant recreation opportunities, exceptional cultural activities, multiple churches, a progressive hospital, and a fine university, to name a few--Bolivar was the ideal place to grow up and the ideal place to raise my own family.

As our nest emptied and Doug's job demands changed significantly, we decided to explore a new lifestyle. Our two older children had settled in New York City, so in tandem with them, we decided to experience "big city" life for ourselves. Our son had lived in a loft in downtown Springfield while he attended architecture school at Drury University, and his living arrangements had always captured our imaginations. In 2012 we leased a loft in downtown Springfield where we could get a taste of city life and be within easy access of the airport (for Doug's business travel and my frequent trips to NYC), yet maintain regular contact with our friends and family in Bolivar.

The GF shelves at Woods Supermarket
Not long before we moved to Springfield, I learned I have celiac disease. I was suddenly forced to find gluten-free groceries and restaurants in order to heal my damaged intestines and avoid consequent illness. At the time, the grocery and dining options in Bolivar were limited. To obtain many of the staples I needed, I had to drive to one of the health food stores in Springfield, like Mama Jean's or Akin's Natural Food Market, or order food on the Internet. I looked forward to being in reach of the plentiful gluten-free groceries and restaurants offered by the bigger city.

Since our move, however, Bolivar has become an easier place for folks with celiac disease or gluten intolerance to find abundant gluten-free groceries. First, Woods Supermarket, a home-owned, area chain has begun to offer patrons a wide variety of the most popular GF brands. They have a nice selection of those brands on dedicated shelves in one of the aisles, so you don't have to look all over the place to find them.  In addition, they carry Kretschmar brand deli meats, which are also gluten-free. Of course, there are countless other products throughout the store. When I'm in Bolivar, I frequently stop in Woods for my favorites, because it's so easy to get in and out without driving around and parking in Springfield. Ironic, huh?

GF products at Designed 4 Healing 
Another impressive venue for GF products in Bolivar is Designed 4 Healing, operated by Kim Jones. The newly-remodeled natural foods store is located at 451 S. Springfield (in the same center as El Tres Amigos Restaurant). The store offers many wonderful GF products--and if it's not there, Jones will order it for you. She even has a freezer full of Udi's breads, so no one has to be without a hamburger or hotdog bun at a spur-of-the-moment barbecue at beautiful Dunnegan Park!

A word about sticker shock on the GF products that you'll find in these (and many other small-town) stores: The prices compare very favorably with those offered in their Springfield counter-parts. The bad news is that gluten-free products are expensive in general. The good news is that, as more people are discovering the health benefits of eliminating gluten from their diets, and more people are buying more GF products, the prices are gradually going down. I've noticed that trend just over the past couple of years. If you live in a small town, ask your grocer to stock your favorites. They are usually happy to help you.

And speaking of Bolivar, I'll discuss Bolivar's gluten-free dining options in a future blog. You might be surprised at how many places offer GF menu items!