Joyce and Barney Hopkins of Fredericksburg display some of the gluten-free products Joyce has made, including cheese crackers, peanut-butter cookies and
Joyce and Barney Hopkins of Fredericksburg display some of the gluten-free products Joyce has made, including cheese crackers, peanut-butter cookies and bread. Joyce makes the food in her bread machine at home. (YDR -- ALLETTA SCHADLER)
About 15 years ago Barney Hopkins of Fredericksburg was told that he had celiac disease, a genetic digestive disease that interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food.

Those with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley. As a result, the diagnosis caused a major shift in the foods Hopkins could eat and a major change in the way his wife Joyce prepared meals. The condition afflicts both children and adults, often after a long period of searching for the cause of diverse symptoms. More than 2 million Americans live with this challenging dietary requirement.

I first learned about this disease about 15 years ago as I tried to help families figure out how to bake without using wheat, barley or rye flour and how to prepare a near-normal diet for the rest of a patient's life. There was little information and few sources for gluten-free food. Often, the food that was available was very expensive and tasted badly.

Times have surely changed. For example, I learned recently that families visiting Hersheypark and requiring gluten-free (GF) foods will find burgers in gluten-free buns at 13 different locations (spotted on a map) in the park, in addition to GF chicken tenders, pizza, wraps, muffins, brownies and caramel corn.

Kathy Burrows, public-relations manager for Hersheypark, told me that these new items were added to park menus as a result of requests from guests. And before deciding on what to offer this season, they researched a wide variety of foods. The