Healthy Food Helps Maria Manage Diabetes
by Kelcey Ellis, Programs Manager
“I don’t speak English; I don’t speak Spanish; I speak my own language,” Maria jokes. Clearly a central figure in the community, at least half a dozen people stopped to give Maria a hug or ask, “How are you?”
Maria has been battling type 2 diabetes since 2009 and receives medical care through the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Student-Run Free Health Clinic Project stationed at Third Avenue Charitable Organization (TACO), a Feeding San Diego (FSD) partner agency. She enrolled in the research project jointly managed by UCSD School of Medicine students and FSD staff about a year ago. The project provides chronically ill patients with a box of food specifically designed to help them manage their diabetes along with nutrition education and recipes.
“This food is so important,” Maria shared. “I love getting the recipes to try new combinations of food and learn what nutrients I can or can’t eat.”
As she proudly shows picture after picture of her three grown children, Maria confided, “Right now, I have nowhere to live, but I take the food from the boxes and cook it at work or at my friend’s house. It helps get me through the month.”
Maria currently works as a caregiver and has been working in some capacity since she was eight years old. Managing a chronic disease is difficult enough when people have resources to eat healthy and stay active, but even more challenging when you’re struggling just to make ends meet. For Maria, the collaboration between FSD and UCSD has provided invaluable support for managing her health.
Today, Maria is successfully managing her diabetes without insulin, partially through her diet of nutritious food.
“My blood sugar went from 6.9 to 6.1 and I am able to manage it without medicine,” she proudly shared.
Of the approximately 50 pounds of food each participant receives from FSD, about 20 of those pounds are fresh vegetables and fruit. The additional 30 pounds consist of foods like brown rice, canned tuna in water, whole-grain pasta and no-salt-added canned vegetables.
Her favorite food from the wellness boxes? “I love onions. I am so glad we get onions because I sauté them with the canned green beans in the box and an egg. It’s delicious and good for me!”