Nationally and locally, organizations are working together to bridge the gap between hunger, health and access to affordable, healthy foods in order to address these increasingly complex and interrelated public health concerns. Through collaboration with community-based organizations and health care partners, food banks can be part of the solution for the diet-sensitive chronic health issues facing many of the families and individuals they serve, and health organizations can understand and identify issues of food insecurity that may have otherwise been ignored.
Feeding America’s Response to Diabetes and Food Insecurity
Diabetes affects 29.1 million people in the U.S., or 9.3 percent of the population. The prevalence of diabetes—especially type 2 diabetes—has dramatically increased over the past 50 years, disproportionately affecting low-income people who live with food insecurity and other social and economic challenges. Access to healthy food, self-management support and regular primary care are critical to achieving blood sugar control and preventing diabetes-related complications. However, many adults with diabetes—particularly those living in low-income communities with high rates of food insecurity—lack access to these services. Feeding America’s Hunger in America 2014 study found that one-third of the households we serve report having a member with diabetes. In addition, two-thirds have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care. Health and hunger are interconnected.
Diabetes Initiative Pilot Project (2011 – 2014)
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Together on Diabetes initiative provided Feeding America with a three-year grant to address diabetes among people facing hunger. The Feeding America Diabetes Initiative was piloted at three member food banks (Redwood Empire Food Bank, Food Bank of Corpus Christi, and Mid-Ohio Foodbank) where they offered clients diabetes appropriate food, education, blood sugar monitoring and referrals to primary care providers.
Data from the pilot project revealed significant improvements in multiple outcome measures, including participants’ blood sugar control and diabetes-related distress, and the success of the pilot confirmed that this model is highly desirable to food banks, clients, and to health care partners and is feasible to implement in these settings. Complete project results were published in Health Affairs, a leading peer-reviewed journal that focuses on the intersections of health, healthcare, and policy in November 2015.
Feeding America Intervention Trial for Health – Diabetes Mellitus (FAITH-DM, 2015 – 2017)
While the data from the pilot project is promising, Feeding America has undertaken a second phase to rigorously evaluate the intervention’s effectiveness using a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design. This design will ensure that we more accurately understand the benefits that can be expected from implementation of similar diabetes interventions across the network of food banks. Thus, in early 2015 Feeding America began designing an RCT, with a waitlist control group, to evaluate the effectiveness of using food banks to identify food-insecure clients with uncontrolled diabetes and to provide food, education, emotional support and links to primary care. The Feeding America Intervention Trial for Health – Diabetes Mellitus (FAITH-DM) will be implemented through three partner food banks (Alameda County Community Food Bank, Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, Houston Food Bank) and will reach over 720 high-risk, underserved food-insecure adults with poorly managed diabetes. The diabetes research trial intervention will help provide diabetes management services that are frequently unavailable, inconvenient or poorly adapted for this population. To learn more about FAITH-DM and the primary and secondary outcomes, view the sharable 2-pager here. Final results from FAITH-DM are expected by December 2017.