Georgia Mountain Food Bank (GMFB) and partner clinics aim to help patients better control their health and empower them to take the necessary steps to prevent short and long-term complications by providing low-income patients with free disease-appropriate food boxes tailored to their nutrition needs. Amerigroup Georgia’s recent $10,000 grant will help cover the cost of the diet-specific purchased food.
The prevalence of diabetes, especially type 2, cancer and cardiac-related diseases has dramatically increased and disproportionately affects low-income people who live with food insecurity. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Often, food-insecure people adopt coping strategies to make ends meet by purchasing less expensive foods that are carbohydrate rich, calorically dense and nutritionally poor in order to pay for costly medications and procedures. For food-insecure individuals with disease, a tension exists between their need to stretch their food budgets and their need to purchase disease-appropriate food, such as vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.
“Oftentimes patients will opt for lower cost food options like fast-food or Ramen noodles, which is not always healthy. Since we are able to customize what goes into the prescriptive food box the program is helping to bridge the gap and to help to meet the need of getting healthier food,” said Cheryl Williams, Diabetes Education Coordinator at the Longstreet Clinic.
The prescriptive food box program began as a pilot program between Georgia Mountain Food Bank and Good News Clinics in 2016 in response to a growing national movement recognizing the importance of food in medicine and how they play hand in hand to improve outcomes and overall health. Due to its success, additional pilot projects were added at Longstreet Clinic and Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic last year.
“We saw a 50 percent reduction with our patients with their A1C level. We had one patient who dropped from an A1C of 10.5, which is very high, to an A1C of 7.5, which is very near normal,” concluded Williams.
All patients enrolled in the program are screened for food insecurity. In addition to distributing regular boxes for food insecure patients at Good News Clinics, prescriptive boxes are distributed to the diabetic patients as well as their heart failure patients. Longstreet Clinic provides boxes to diabetic patients, and Northeast Diagnostic Clinic utilizes them for their oncology patients. Amerigroup Georgia’s grant will be used to provide prescriptive food boxes for diabetic patients specifically.
“Amerigroup Georgia is honored to support Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s prescriptive food box initiative, which is effectively helping some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens gain access to the proper nutrition they need to maintain their health and improve their overall wellbeing,” said Mel Lindsey, Amerigroup Georgia president. “We stand united with Georgia Mountain Food Bank in the fight against food insecurity and diabetes, and will continue to work together to ensure progress and positive outcomes for our communities.”
Strategies to address this additional burden for low-income patients with disease often lack in traditional long-term illness care. This is why GMFB in partnership with Good News Clinics, Longstreet Clinic and Diagnostic Clinic is addressing this burden by providing 10,000 pounds of disease-appropriate food annually. GMFB packs health conscience specialized boxes focused on specialized dietary needs such as items low in sodium and low sugar.
“We are incredibly thankful for the partnership with Good News Clinics, Longstreet Clinic and Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic,” said Kay Blackstock, executive director of Georgia Mountain Food Bank. “The initial results of our pilots have been a tremendous success, already seeing improved health outcomes in as little as two years including lowered A1C levels, BMI and weight-loss. It will be through community partnerships like Amerigroup Georgia’s generous lead gift that we will be able to continue this effort as an ongoing program of Georgia Mountain Food Bank.”
The work of Georgia Mountain Food Bank is not possible without committed volunteers, donors and corporate partners. A 25 dollar donation can help provide a prescriptive food box to a person in need. Those interested in donating or learning about more about the Georgia Mountain Food Bank can visit gamountainfoodbank.org.