Diabetes Pilot Project Breaks New Ground for Food & Friends

- August 3, 2017

img_7295In October 2014, Food & Friends, in partnership with the GW Heart & Vascular Institute, launched a two-year pilot project providing meals for individuals in the Washington, DC region living with poorly-managed type 2 diabetes. Having now concluded the pilot, both Food & Friends and our partners at GWU are encouraged by the results.

“We chose to partner with Food & Friends because they are the most robust and dependable organization out there,” said Dr. Gurusher Panjrath, of the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates. “They understand how to bring about change through better nutrition, nutrition counseling and food security.”

While a pilot specifically focused on diabetes was a new undertaking for Food & Friends, working with clients who have the disease is not. In 2016, over 20% of Food & Friends’ clients outside of the pilot had diabetes in addition to cancer or HIV/AIDS. To help address this secondary health problem, we have served a diabetic meal plan for two decades.

Food and Friends. Washington DC Sept. 21, 2016 . © Rick Reinhard 2016 email rick@rickreinhard.com

Over the course of the two-year study, Food & Friends prepared and delivered approximately 116,000 meals to 101 clients and 75 family members and completed 330 nutrition assessments. Our Diabetic and Diabetic-Heart Healthy meal plans provide on average 1,800 calories, 80 grams of protein and less than 2,000mg of sodium per day. The meal plans exclude refined grains, starchy vegetables and significantly limit items containing sucrose.

At the study’s conclusion, the GWU team analyzed the data and saw several statistical correlations between Food & Friends’ nutrition services and the pilot clients’ health, including improved medication adherence and increased diabetes knowledge.

Most importantly, they saw a statistically significant change in their HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) level, which gives an overall picture of a person’s average blood sugar. Lowering this number can cut the risk of kidney disease, cataracts, heart failure, amputation, peripheral vascular disease, and other ailments common among those living with poorly controlled diabetes.

Pilot participant Derek Simms at the annual Food & Friends Client BBQ

Pilot participant Derek Simms at the annual Food & Friends Client BBQ

“When [Food & Friends] came to me, I was in my hospital bed. I was definitely facing amputation at that time…. [Now] I’m walking, I don’t have any machines hooked up to me, and all I can say is thank you,”  said Derek Simms, a diabetes pilot participant.

It was clear however, that the benefits went beyond those particular data points. As clients started seeing results (such as improved blood glucose and weight loss) and getting positive feedback from their doctors, they became more receptive to their doctors’ recommendations. Through continued exposure to the Diabetic meal plan, they began to enjoy the new way of eating and many said they did not miss their old foods. Many clients gained a better understanding of portion size and portion control and now model their home-prepared meals after the meals Food & Friends provided—positive results after two years of hard work.

 

This pilot project was made possible through generous support from lead funders, the DC Department of Health Community Health Administration, The Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation Inc., and the The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.

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