Research shows that type 2 diabetes disproportionately affects underserved communities. Summit Medical Group Foundation (SMGF), the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ) and northern New Jersey food pantries have been working to change that through a collaborative initiative called Food, Health, Hope: An Answer to Diabetes (FHH Diabetes). The initiative is now in its second year of programming with the same goal – to change diets and other lifestyle behaviors, reduce hospitalizations and save lives.
“With the program, I’m continuing to learn so much about my body,” exclaimed Ms. Leebing, who participated in the first year of FHH Diabetes. “I’m living better than I ever have been before. I take good care of myself and now I know how to do things the right way,” she went on to say.
FHH Diabetes aims to identify food pantry clients who have pre-diabetes or diabetes and to provide participants with diabetes-appropriate foods and educational programs, while monitoring their blood glucose HbA1c levels and other health indicators periodically throughout the year.
Participants in FHH Diabetes receive health-improving benefits, such as:
- Free healthy, diabetes-appropriate food boxes with fresh produce, whole grains and lean meats twice a month
- Culturally and ethnically sensitive recipes
- Free nutrition, diabetes and healthy lifestyle education (both in-person with educators and through take-away handouts)
- Free quarterly monitoring of blood pressure and HbA1c (average blood sugar level over three months)
- Free annual multi-specialty screening in bodily areas affected by diabetes, including feet and eyes
- Access to low-cost prescription assistance for diabetes-related medications and/or testing supplies
In the first year, nearly three-quarters of participants felt the program helped them change the way they take care of themselves. Half of all participants improved their HbA1c values from pre-to post-intervention, and 10% moved from an HbA1c in the pre-diabetic range or diabetic range to a normal range. And 72% of the participants shared their screening results with their doctor, providing a continuum of care.
Not only is the program working, but SMGF is also able to identify and help far higher numbers of participants with diabetes and hypertension than ever anticipated. In year two, SMGF and CFBNJ have expanded the program, including nine food pantries, up from seven last year.
“Studies indicate that people with pre-diabetes will convert to diabetes within five years, unless they take action to prevent it. Preventing disease conversion, as well as disease progression, is a great opportunity. These people are truly excited and want to be in the program,” said Anna Trautwein, RNC, Clinical Director of Programs and Community Partnerships at SMGF.
The program couldn’t exist if it weren’t for the hundreds of volunteers from Summit Medical Group (SMG). “You have given me an opportunity to see why I went into healthcare,” explained Dr. Marco Ucciferri, DPM, SMG Podiatrist, who has volunteered for FHH Diabetes conducting annual foot exams for more than 300 people. “Volunteering for this program is more rewarding every time I do it. I don’t think words can summarize how amazing it is to give back to our communities.”
Participating Food Pantries in Year Two of FHH: Diabetes
- Solid Rock in Irvington
- Deeper Life in Irvington
- Eben-Ezer in Newark
- Interfaith in Orange
- SDA in Orange
- Father English in Paterson
- Paul in Paterson
- Greater Refuge in Plainfield
- New Covenant in Plainfield
These programs could not exist without the generous support of our community partners: