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Food banks, community clinics partner to address diabetes

Four breakout session speakers will highlight how their food banks have partnered with healthcare organizations in their communities to identify low-income people with diabetes, and provide them with healthy food choices, diabetes education and connections to healthcare services.

They’ll share their insights during “Food Bank – HealthCare Partnerships to Address Diabetes in Low-Income, Food Insecure Communities,” which runs from 1:00 to 2:30 pm today in W308. 

Georgiana Bradshaw, RN, CDE

Georgiana Bradshaw, RN, CDE

“Food banks can be an integral part of health care. We operate in three different areas of the country where we have created partnerships with healthcare organizations — California, Ohio and Texas,” said Georgiana Bradshaw, RN, CDE, coordinator of the Diabetes Hands-On program at the Food Bank of Corpus Christi, Texas, a member of a nationwide network of food banks known as Feeding America.

Food banks across the nation provide foodstuff to pantries or agencies that distribute food in low-income neighborhoods to people in need. “We not only purchase food at low cost, but we also rescue food from local grocers and larger chain stores that sell food, such as Walmart,” Bradshaw said.

She will talk about the Diabetes Hands-On program and the concept of diabetes food pantries that provide boxes of healthy food appropriate for persons with diabetes. 

“Food is medicine, and it can make a difference for patients with diabetes who live in low-income communities where they are food insecure. If they can’t eat healthy foods, how can they take care of their diabetes?” Bradshaw said.

Kim Prendergast, RD, MPP

Kim Prendergast, RD, MPP

In addition to food boxes, her program offers diabetes self-management education at food pantries in food-insecure neighborhoods.

Kim Prendergast, RD, MPP, consulting project manager for the Diabetes Initiative at Feeding America, Boston; Kathy Garrison, MS, RD, LD, project manager for the FEED (Food, Education and Empowerment for Diabetes) project, Columbus, Ohio; and Morgan C. Smith, RN, CDE, CNS, PHN, from the Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa, California, will join Bradshaw.

Smith will describe a successful pilot project he has been working on in collaboration with 12 community health organizations in Sonoma County, California. The “Diabetes Wellness Project” targets adults with type 2 diabetes who are food insecure and who are often disconnected from regular sources of clinical diabetes care. 

Kathy Garrison, MS, RD, LD

Kathy Garrison, MS, RD, LD

“Screening patients for access to healthy foods is rare in traditional diabetes education models. We’ll talk to diabetes educators about the importance of screening, as well as how to identify food resources in their communities for patients who are food insecure. I’ll describe how to build partnerships with food banks and food pantries, where patients can access healthy foods and receive diabetes services as well,” he said.

Smith’s group developed a bidirectional referral system in which the food bank conducts blood glucose and A1C screenings in the community to identify people at risk for diabetes or who have diabetes but do not have health care. They refer these people directly to community health clinics so they can establish a primary medical home.

The clinics, in turn, screen their patients for food insecurity and refer them to the food bank to participate in the Diabetes Wellness Project, access healthy food each month and receive diabetes education services.

Morgan C. Smith, RN, CDE, CNS, PHN

Morgan C. Smith, RN, CDE, CNS, PHN

Smith and his colleagues measure the success of the program by surveying participants about their intake of fruits and vegetables and ability to access healthy foods within a given month. They also measure glycemic control with A1C testing at baseline and after three and six months in the program, as well as indicators of diabetes distress, depression, medication adherence, and confidence in managing diabetes.

“For diabetes educators who work in low-income communities, this session will offer concrete tools and resources to help them start the conversation about food insecurity with their patients and clinic staff, and screen for those who need help in accessing healthy foods,” Smith said. 

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