Think Free

Dear all - I'm a member of the Gluten Free Guerrillas group. It was suggested I should post this blog to other sites in HealthUnlocked. It concerns a new charity for food-related illnesses. I'm in UK, not Australia, but a lot of the issues will be shared and know that food can play a role in Sjögren's Syndrome and that some sufferers have related allergies/intolerances and autoimmune conditions.

A while back there was a lot of debate in GfG around the effectiveness of existing charities/bodies in the coeliac/intolerance/allergy space. Talking to others, my conclusion was that there is a space for a new charity to help:

- Support sufferers

- Undertake research (both to understand the size of the problem and to ultimately do medical research

- Lobby government, food manufacturers and caterers

- Provide educational material for schools and supportive material for medical profession

- Provide an accreditation scheme to allow sufferers to go to restaurants/cafes/pubs in the confidence that they are not going to get poisoned

And so the concept of Think Free was born - a not for profit charity which will aim to do all the above. This has been helped with input and thoughts from members of GfG. I've got my head down and got on with a lot of work behind the scenes to try to get some basics in place - the organisation has been registered, small Board put together (and we are seeking additional board members), branding developed, basic website setup think-free.info.

I am currently trying to put funding bids (multiple) to provide core funding to get it up an running and to fund the first phase which will be to develop educational material.

Part of the next phase will be develop a map-based interface allowing identification of businesses that support people with food-related illnesses. To extend this, there will be an accreditation scheme with several levels where suppliers have to either agree to adopt certain basic standards or at a higher level, undergo an audit. The end product being certified restaurants, etc which you know you can eat in safely. This will be ported to an app as well to help raise funds.

Longer term, there will be lobbying of manufacturers for better labelling, commitment to use free-from ingredients (and we mean free-from not "gluten free") and the lobbying of government around definitions of gluten free, etc.

We're not setting ourselves up in direct opposition to Coeliac UK as they have a different remit/aims. Think Free is not just gluten either - it is for all food-related illnesses.

So - what am I looking for from you?

- Support

- Thoughts

- Feedback

- Offers of help (we need to develop content for online fact sheets)

- Support for fund-raising

- Expertise - we desperately need people with medical/catering/web or app design skills

Just to be 100% clear - I'm not drawing a salary from this - my intention is to stay in my day-job, which is a director of a national charity for schools. I'm using my experience/skills/contacts to help grow this.

The site is also basic at the moment and will grow/change/become more professional.

Our aim for doing it is pure - its to develop a community resource for the community.

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