Food insecurity—defined as not having adequate quantity and quality of food at all times for all household members to have an active, healthy life—is a risk factor for poor diabetes control, yet few diabetes interventions address this important factor. Food pantries, which receive food from food banks and distribute it to clients in need, may be ideal sites for diabetes self-management support because they can provide free diabetes-appropriate food to people in low-income communities. Between February 2012 and March 2014, we enrolled 687 food pantry clients with diabetes in three states in a six-month pilot intervention that provided them with diabetes-appropriate food, blood sugar monitoring, primary care referral, and self-management support. Improvements were seen in pre-post analyses of glycemic control (hemoglobin A1c decreased from 8.11 percent to 7.96 percent), fruit and vegetable intake (which increased from 2.8 to 3.1 servings per day), self-efficacy, and medication adherence. Among participants with elevated HbA1c (at least 7.5 percent) at baseline, HbA1c improved from 9.52 percent to 9.04 percent. Although food pantries are nontraditional settings for diabetes support, this pilot study suggests a promising health promotion model for vulnerable populations. Policies supporting such interventions may be particularly effective because of food pantries’ food access and distribution capacity.
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