ACCORDING TO THE Celiac Disease Foundation, one in 133 people are afflicted with celiac disease, a digestive disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Of those sufferers, 97 percent are not properly diagnosed. “I went undiagnosed for nine years,” says Jaynel Hollis, who last year founded The Greenwood Kitchen, a gluten-free bakery in Lansdowne, with husband Kyle Gresh. Hollis is one of several entrepreneurs who have turned their illness into a sweet opportunity for other celiac sufferers.
“I remember the struggle I had in attempting to change my diet, but I knew, once I got the hang of it, that this was my calling,” says Hollis. “I needed to provide great-tasting gluten-free options for those going through the same thing I went through.” Sold via special order on the company’s website, thegreenwoodkitchen.com, and through markets like the Fair Food Farmstand, Essene Market and Whole Foods Market in Callowhill, Greenwood boasts a whole line of celiac-friendly sweets and snacks—many are vegan, and all are made with locally sourced, organic ingredients—including delicate kale chips seasoned with tahini and spices, kernel-studded corn muffins and chewy coconut macaroons in flavors like chai tea, chocolate fudge and orange-ginger.
Celiac-conscious desserts are also on the menu at Sweet Freedom Bakery(1424 South St., 215-545-1899), a powder-blue South Street bakeshop owned by former health counselors Heather Esposito and Allison Lubert, who are sensitive to gluten and allergic to wheat, respectively. “I’m hypoglycemic,” says Esposito, “and I have a sweet tooth, so it’s especially hard to find glutenfree options without refined sugar.” Thus, Sweet Freedom was born in January, serving chocolate-banana cupcakes, cookie sandwiches, gooey blueberry crumble bars and other items only sweetened with agave nectar, maple syrup or coconut sugar. All offerings are vegan and safe for people with corn, casein, peanut and soy allergies. “One of my friends said, ‘What are you doing? You’re narrowing your market,’” Esposito says. “But it’s been just the opposite. We’re opening it.”