As tens of thousands of Kentucky families pick up their food boxes this month from hundreds of food pantries across the state, they will find more than something to eat inside. An educational flyer with a simple message – eat healthy and get moving – has been added. The idea is to help an at-risk population curb a deadly problem.
Stewart Perry, advocacy director for the Bluegrass American Diabetes Association, said there's been a staggering increase in the disease in recent years.
"We can point fingers," he said. "We can say inactivity. We can say obesity. But, it's a real domino effect of getting people to understand the problem, to getting people to address the problem and getting the communities to own that problem and make it a priority."
The CDC found that diabetes more than tripled in Kentucky from 1995 to 2010. Perry said working with the state's food pantries during American Diabetes Month is a natural fit because lower-income people often are at highest risk for long-term health problems. According to the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, 41 percent of households served have at least one family member with diabetes.
Passport Health Plan, a nonprofit provider which administers Medicaid benefits to nearly 300,000 Kentuckians, also is a partner in the project.
Passport's Health Educator Lisa Bellafato said reaching people, food pantry by food pantry, is critical.
"There's a lot of food insecurities," she said. "Many of our members live in areas where there are food deserts. They don't have the resources that some of the rest of us have, so I think it's really important to meet them there and to provide them with some support, resources, education that can help them to make the best choices that they can.”
Bellafato said the information will include how to spot signs of diabetes; exercise tips; even suggestions for how to find "good-for-you" foods at bargain prices.
"It's a checklist of how to shop in the dollar store and find the best choices available there to get the healthiest foods you can within the means that you have," she added.
The Institute for Alternative Futures estimates 561,000 Kentuckians have diabetes, and nearly 1.2 million have prediabetes.