A new study from Feeding America, the nationwide network of 200 food banks and the largest domestic hunger-relief organization, found that food banks can improve food security, dietary intake, and health status for vulnerable individuals. The study, which took place in Oakland, California, provided food bank clients at risk for type 2 diabetes with a 12-month diabetes prevention intervention, according to a release from Feeding America.
This study is the latest research conducted by Feeding America that showcases the important role food banks play in the food security and health of high-risk populations. This intervention demonstrated that food banks can effectively screen clients at high risk for diabetes and can be an important strategic partner for health care systems and community-based organizations working to prevent diabetes in food-insecure populations.
“The people we serve are not only experiencing food insecurity, but, in many cases, worrying about their health and wellness, including their risk of developing diabetes,” says Hilary Seligman, senior medical advisor at Feeding America. “Through this study, we learned that food banks can support food security while at the same time reducing diabetes risk factors for people at highest risk of developing the disease. Participants increased their fruit and vegetable intake, decreased their soda and sweets intake, increased their physical activity, and reported better overall physical and mental health. Still, more needs to be done to connect vulnerable populations to health care and other diabetes prevention resources. We look forward to testing promising interventions like this one at larger scale.”
According to the most recent USDA food security report, 37 million people live in food-insecure households meaning they lack access to adequate nutrition. In addition, the effects of food insecurity include poor nutrition and negative impacts on overall health for people across their lifespan.
One-third of households turning to Feeding America food banks for food assistance report having a family member with diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports over 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and an additional 84 million adults have prediabetes.
This study screened a total of 244 adult individuals of English- and Spanish-speakinng communities, who are food bank clients, for type 2 diabetes. Screenings began in November 2017 and the intervention components, including monthly diabetes-appropriate food packages, text-based health education, and referrals to health care, were delivered between November 2017 and March 2019.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health led project evaluation activities. Cargill, a long-time partner and supporter of Feeding America, funded this study.
Study findings were recently published in Preventing Chronic Disease, a peer-reviewed public health journal sponsored by the CDC.
To learn more about Feeding America and the work food banks are doing to improve food security for millions of Americans, visit hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org.