Using food banks to fight diabetes and promote health for vulnerable populations: An interview with Dr. Hilary Seligman, Professor, University of California, San Francisco – Episode #102

Can food banks be used to address diet-sensitive disease in low-income communities? A new study of a pilot intervention suggests they can.

Between 2012 and 2014, researchers enrolled almost 700 food pantry clients with diabetes in a six-month pilot intervention in three states. The intervention provided participants with diabetes-appropriate food, blood sugar monitoring, primary care referral, and self-management support. The results, published in Health Affairs, show small but important improvements on a range of health indicators — with larger effects for those with the most series cases of diabetes. While the findings will need to be confirmed by an impact evaluation (already underway), the intervention creates a model for food banks to use to address diet-sensitive disease in low-income communities. The study also shows the value of running pilot programs to test the feasibility of innovative social programs and to “work out the kinks” before more rigorous evaluation.

To learn more, we’re joined by Dr. Hilary Seligman, the lead author of the study. She is a professor of medicine, epidemiology an biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, a practicing physician, and Senior Medical Advisor and Lead Scientist at Feeding America.