Tackling Diabetes in South Texas Through Food

November 10, 2015
by Bea Hanson

Diabetes rates in South Texas have climbed to an estimated 19 percent. With a heavily Hispanic population and younger generations showing signs of chronic diseases, the trend will continue to climb. The high rate of uninsured and underinsured has taken a toll on the health of our communities. The Food Bank of Corpus Christi is taking the lead in offering a solution through our relationship in the community.

The Food Bank has been involved in diabetes education since 2009 with a highly successful program called Diabetes Hands On. When the opportunity to participate in Feeding America’s initial Diabetes Initiative pilot study became available, we jumped at the chance to address diabetes in the pantries through healthier food options. Since then we have been blazing the diabetes trail in our city. Not only are we offering the people we serve valuable diabetes self-management education in a low-literacy format but also the nutritious food they need to help manage their diabetes.

As the diabetes team at the Food Bank began working in the partner food pantries, they became more and more excited as the people they worked with improved their blood sugar control, medication adherence and intake of fruits and vegetables. The team also reported reduced diabetes distress and improvements in health. Working in the food pantries we support definitely gave us a different perspective on what is happening in the lives of the people the Food Bank serves. It’s not easy having diabetes and it’s certainly not easy when you have to worry where your next meal is coming from. One woman we served said that it was hope in a box when she received her healthy food box and fresh produce.

Originally, food banks were considered emergency food distributors; their intervention was intended to sustain a family for a few days until food stamps arrived or other sources of income were available. As the economy declined, the diabetes and obesity rates soar and more people become dependent on food donations. Consequently, the Food Bank’s role has changed. Food distributions focus on selection and nutrition; the intervention is to offer a variety of food to those struggling with proper nutrition to manage their diseases. Better nutrition and healthier living have become an intrinsic component of our service; nutrition education, recipes and diabetes self-management classes have become every day activities at the food bank and its partner agencies.

This program has really changed the culture and environment of our food bank. We are purchasing healthier foods and soliciting healthier donations throughout our whole network for all of the people we serve, not just those living with diabetes.

Bea Hanson*Bea Hanson has served as Executive Director of the Food Bank of Corpus Christi since 1997. Under her direction the Food Bank has grown from 2 to 8 million pound distribution and programs have been created to respond to the needs of people in our communities. Chronic diseases and obesity have reached epidemic proportions and she is determined to become part of the solution by offering answers at the point of food distribution.


 

 

Tags: Innovative Solutions to Hunger , Nutrition , Food Bank of Corpus Christi
 

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