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Feeding America®: On the Front Lines of Health Promotion

Food security is a social determinant of health [i] and plays a critical role in a person’s ability to become and stay healthy. Individuals and families who lack consistent access to enough healthy food may have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases like obesity [ii],  hypertension [iii] and diabetes [iv]. Food insecurity can also make management of these and other health conditions  more challenging. [v]

The Feeding America network is working to better understand the intersection of food insecurity and health. We are learning how to best promote the health of the people we serve by distributing nutritious foods and engaging in innovative nutrition education programming and partnerships. Our goal is to address food insecurity while improving individual and population-level health outcomes.

Addressing Diabetes: Feeding America’s Response to Diabetes and Food Insecurity

More than 30 million people in the United States, or 9.4 percent of the population, have diabetes [vi]. The prevalence of diabetes—especially type 2 diabetes—has dramatically increased over the past 50 years and disproportionately affects low-income people who are food insecure. Access to healthy food, self-management support and regular primary care are critical to promoting wellness and preventing diabetes related complications. However, many adults with diabetes who are also food insecure may lack access or resources to obtain these services.

Feeding America’s Hunger in America 2014 study found that one-third (33 percent) of the households served report having at least one member with diabetes. In addition, two-thirds (66 percent) have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care. Feeding America is responding to these pressing public health problems through the initiatives described below.

Diabetes Initiative Pilot Project (2011 – 2014)

The Feeding America Diabetes Initiative was piloted at three member food banks that offered tailored services to the people they served who were living with diabetes. Services included nutrition education, blood sugar monitoring, healthy food and referrals to primary care providers.

Data from the pilot project revealed significant improvements in multiple outcome measures, including participants’ blood sugar control and diabetes-related distress, and the success of the pilot confirmed that this model is highly desirable to food banks, the people they serve and health care partners. Project results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs in November 2015.

Feeding America Intervention Trial for Health – Diabetes Mellitus (FAITH-DM, 2015 – 2017)

Building on lessons learned from the Diabetes Initiative, Feeding America conducted a two-year, randomized controlled trial to better understand how food bank-based interventions can effectively promote the health of food-insecure adults living with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes. Three member food banks participated in FAITH-DM, with results from the trial demonstrating several positive results for adults who took part in the study.

Diabetes Prevention Pilot Project (2016 – 2019)

In order to better understand how food banks can support people with prediabetes, Feeding America conducted a diabetes prevention pilot project with the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB) in Oakland, CA from 2017-2019. The pilot project included implementation and evaluation of key activities, including screening clients for diabetes risk, providing 12-months of supplemental food, and evaluating participant outcomes. Project results and resources for food banks interested in diabetes prevention interventions are available in this document: Addressing Food Insecurity and Diabetes Prevention: Resources and Tools for Success.

Feeding America – Americares Diabetes Prevention Pilot Work (2017 – 2019)

Free and charitable clinics provide a range of primary health care services to medically underserved, low-income and other vulnerable populations. Americares — a national non-profit that supports the nation’s network of free clinics — identified food insecurity as a major issue impacting free clinic patients. Feeding America is working with Americares to provide free clinic patients engaged in diabetes prevention programs with access to healthy foods and other services [vii,viii,ix].

For more information about diabetes, visit: 



  1. Social Determinants of Health. Healthy People 2020. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-of-health Accessed January 24, 2017.

  2. Adams EJ, Grummer-Strawn L, Chavez, G. Food Insecurity is Associated with Increased Risk of Obesity in California Women. Jour Nutr, 2003;133, 1070-1074. Available online at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/4/1070.full

  3. Seligman HK., Laraia BA., Kushel MB. Food Insecurity is Associated with Chronic Disease Among Low-Income NHANES Participants. J Nutri, 140(2), 2010;304-310. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2806885/

  4. Seligman HK. Bindman AB., Vittinghoff E., Kanaya AM., Kushel MB. Food Insecurity is Associated with Diabetes Mellitus: Results from the National Health Examination and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999–2002. J Gen Intern Med, 2007;22(7): 1018–1023.

  5. Gany F., Lee T, Ramirez J, Massie D, Moran A., Crist, M, Leng JCF. Do Our Patients Have Enough to Eat? Food Insecurity among Urban Low-income Cancer Patients. J Health Care Poor Underserved, 2014;25(3), 1153–1168. http://doi.org/10.1353/hpu.2014.0145

  6. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf Accessed October 26, 2017.

  7. Americares. http://www.safetynetcenter.org/ Accessed January 24, 2017.

  8. The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. http://www.nafcclinics.org/ Accessed January 24, 2017.

  9. National Diabetes Prevention Program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/index.html Accessed January 24, 2017.