Feeding America

Feeding America’s Diabetes Initiative

Locations: Nueces County, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Sonoma County, California

Through its Together on Diabetes Initiative, Feeding America sought to improve the health outcomes of food-insecure patients affected by type 2 diabetes by working through three local food banks. Through collaborations with healthcare providers and community partners, this project strengthened the support system for individuals facing diabetes and food insecurity by: a) creating bi-directional partnerships between healthcare providers and local community services; b) providing increased access to diabetes and food insecurity screening; and c) identifying individuals struggling to access healthy food to manage their diabetes. Project participants received healthy food boxes, diabetes education, and other supports to assure that they had access to medical treatment, diabetes supplies, and medicine to manage their disease.

Through collaborations with healthcare providers, Feeding America developed a bi-directional referral service where food bank clients with diabetes are referred to healthcare providers to assure that they have access to healthcare services; healthcare providers also refer diabetes patients with food insecurity to food banks to assure food access for diabetes self-management.

The components of the Feeding America Together on Diabetes intervention were: a) Enhanced Access and Linkage to Care (e.g. patient referral program); b) Support for Managing Diabetes Depression and Distress (e.g., individualized social support); c) Diabetes Self-Management Education (e.g., provided DSME materials with food boxes); d) Community organization, Mobilization, and Advocacy (e.g., Development of MOU’s between food banks and health clinics); e) Health System and Community Transformation (e.g., developed national standards for “healthy” food boxes to be replicated by food banks).

The Feeding America project participants experienced significant improvement to blood glucose, consumption of fruits and vegetables, self-efficacy for diabetes self-management, diabetes-related distress, and adherence to medication.

Key learnings from this project include:

  • Food banks have an existing infrastructure and reputation that provides easy access to healthy, nutritious food from a trusted source. This positions food banks as an effective partner for healthcare organizations to support individuals with diabetes who also struggle with food access.
  • An online learning community of food bank staff was valuable to share ideas, give feedback, and work together to set some common program standards for health screening, food box planning, educational materials, and evaluation.