How a certified event planner with food allergies is changing the hospitality industry—and the health of our nation—one event at a time.
Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, CFPM, founder and chief connecting officer of Thrive! Meetings & Events is a event planner and consultant who is one of just 275 people in the world to hold a designation as a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP), among several other industry certifications. She is also one of the 15 million Americans with food allergies.
Here is her story:
Around age 30, I began experiencing lethargy, severe mood swings, depression, and sinus and breathing problems—symptoms that impacted my quality of life. After four years of visiting doctors who could find nothing wrong with me, I finally found an ENT who located the source of my illness: a food allergy to yeast.
I went on a yeast-free diet (yeast, sugar, vinegar, diary, white flour, peanuts, mushrooms), lost 25 pounds and felt better than I had in years. But I soon found that managing my diet was nearly impossible when traveling for the events I planned. A typical day at a meeting or event usually included three extravagant meals, but most of the time, I couldn’t eat anything that was being served. I didn’t realize right away that I could make off-the-menu requests, but when I did, I realized that sometimes, I got meals that were far superior—in health and flavor—to what everyone else was getting; other times, I got a plate of hard-boiled eggs and bland chicken.
I began to see that very few know how to address the needs of people with dietary restrictions, whether it is a personal choice, a medical condition or a food allergy. That’s why, in January 2009, after reading an article in Natural Health, I decided to do something about it—not only for myself, but for the many people with food allergies and other dietary concerns who attend meetings and events every year. I entered the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) to learn more about my allergy and how to eat—and feel—better with food.
What I came away with was:
- the knowledge that I am not alone in my needs
- a passion to “make the world healthier one event at a time”
- the desire to educate the hospitality industry on how to care for guests with dietary needs
Soon afterward, I decided to combine this knowledge and training with my 20 years of event planning experience, and, in 2010, I founded Thrive! Meetings & Events. I am thrilled to not only produce events that reflect my passion for food and personal commitment to the environment; I feel inspired to work within the hospitality industry to change the health of our nation, one event at a time.