MSU Extension and native meals pantries work collectively to help shoppers with diabetes


These efforts provide resources for those in need.

For people with diabetes, food choices in the pantry can be a challenge. The directors of the area food pantry and Michigan State University Extension worked together to better serve customers with diabetes.

Food insecurity and diabetes

Those with unsafe diets who are struggling to manage their diabetes health turn to pantries and food banks for assistance. The challenge is to maintain a balanced eating plan. Michigan has seen an increase in the diagnosis of diabetes in adult populations, according to America’s 2020 Health Rankings. Those with annual incomes of $ 25,000 or less per year also had the highest prevalence for diabetes. Both age and household income are common indicators of food insecurity.

Food pantries are faced with staple foods that support a balanced eating plan. Grocery supplier Feeding America acknowledges that fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, and dairy products can be tight or too expensive for food pantry budgets.

Clients with diabetes help address areas of need

Pam Daniels, MSU Extension Educator, said, “We thought a good place to start would be with the customers themselves. What resources or support did they want to see? What are the greatest challenges? “Therefore, a needs assessment in the form of a survey was designed and ten local food pantries participated in a needs assessment project to expand the MSU. The strategy was to identify areas where services and resources could be improved for customers with diabetes.

In this survey, which was only available to customers with diabetes in the pantry, they were asked to report themselves in the following areas:

  • Confidence in the selection of suitable foods.
  • Carbohydrate Knowledge.
  • Knowledge of reading labels.
  • Foods that have the greatest impact on blood sugar.
  • Stress-related diabetes self-management.
  • Frequency of reporting diabetes health problems to the health team.

A total of 300 surveys were collected and reviewed. Using the information gathered from these surveys, the Michigan State University Extension created Navigating the Food Pantry of Diabetes Resources.

The directors of the food pantry asked the MSU Extension to go one step further and requested more internal resources for their staff and volunteers. “Our employees would benefit from knowing what to say to customers with diabetes and how to do it in an inclusive and respectful manner,” said Diane Long, director of the Starburst Food Pantry project.

MSU Extension developed a free online professional development course called “Navigating the Pantry with Diabetes Worker Training Course”. The learning objectives of the course are aimed at building employee confidence to alert customers with diabetes to the appropriate pantry resources.

These community efforts have resulted in a change in the policies, systems, and the environment for food pantries.

“It shows how a small project can be a win-win situation for customers, employees and the entire community,” said Pam Daniels.

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