Foodbank, Cottage Health & Neighborhood Clinics collaborate on diabetes program for food insecure

Collaborative education program targets individuals living with diabetes and food insecurity
Santa Barbara, CA. (September 2016) – Access to sufficient and nutritious food not only affects the health of people who experience food insecurity, but also their ability to manage health conditions, such as diabetes. When people don’t have access to sufficient food, their ability to maintain a proper diet to manage a diabetes regimen is compromised. In an effort to support these at-risk individuals, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County announce the launch of “Healthy Eating for Diabetes” or “Comida Saludable para la Diabetes”, a collaborative education program for individuals who are living with diabetes and food insecurity. This program operates in partnership with Dignity Health, Marian Regional Medical Center, Marian Community Clinics and the Family Medicine Center in North Santa Barbara County, and with Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and Cottage Health in South Santa Barbara County.

“The partnership between Pacific Central Coast Health Centers and the Foodbank has given our patients the opportunity to take part in improving their own health, creating healthier communities,” shared Michelle Franco, Director of Clinic Operations for Dignity Health/Pacific Central Coast Health Centers.

In addition to Foodbank’s health partners, ongoing collaborations and support from public entities and other non-profits in the county, such as Salvation Army and the City of Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, have been invaluable to the success of this program.

‘The way the classes are set up gives the participants the opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns related to diabetes from the very beginning,” explained Bernadette Alexander, Certified Health Educator at Community Health Centers and one of the educators of the classes in Santa Maria. “It’s beautiful to see that some participants are role models for others and to observe how they get motivated to change their eating habits when they realize they are not alone’.

About 21% of households served by the Foodbank have at least one member with diabetes. This education program offers a comprehensive range of services including four weekly classes focusing on diabetes education, nutrition and cooking, access to bi-monthly boxes of healthy foods and produce, follow-up social support meetings and free monitoring of blood Hemoglobin A1Clevels for all participants. At the completion of the four-week curriculum, participants receive bi-monthly food provisions with diabetic friendly foods (low-sodium, high fiber, whole grain etc.) and produce to support continued health, learning and application of their new food literacy training. Participants also take a grocery tour as part of the curriculum to explore making healthy food choices and experience the importance of physical activity and group activities for diabetes self-management.

“Diabetes is a complex health condition, and people need more than just food to help them manage this disease. The Healthy Eating for Diabetes program provides healthy food, and it also gives people the information and support they need to live with the challenges that come with eating right and maintaining optimal health. We are very happy to be supporting this essential service,” shared Maddy Frey, Director of Population Health Evaluation at Cottage Health.

To date, the Foodbank has completed three “Healthy Eating for Diabetes” series with Santa Maria residents, and began a fourth this September. The first series for Santa Barbara residents started in June with support from Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and Cottage Health, and more are slated to run countywide this fall.

“Through these strategic partnerships, the Foodbank aims to increase participation and retention rates in their Food As Medicine programs, refer program participants to a physician when needed and mutually promote the ‘Healthy Eating for Diabetes’ program services, “ shared Erik Talkin, Foodbank CEO.

For more information about the “Healthy Eating for Diabetes” program, contact Tonja van Gorp, Community Programs Coordinator, (805) 680-8274 or

About Foodbank of Santa Barbara County
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is transforming the health of Santa Barbara County by eliminating hunger and food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy. The Foodbank provides nourishment and education through its award-winning programs and a network of over 300 member non-profit partners. In Santa Barbara County, one in four people receive food support from the Foodbank; over 146,198 unduplicated people of whom nearly 35% are children. Last year, the Foodbank distributed 9.7 million pounds of food — half of which was fresh produce. For more information, visit

Originally posted in the Santa Barbara Independent:

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