What's in your refrigerator? Harvest Hope food bank launches new initiative to help diabetics

What's in your refrigerator? Harvest Hope food bank launches new initiative to help diabetics

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Sugary drinks, high-carb processed foods - not what those with diabetes should eat.

On July 1, Lexington Medical Center, Harvest Hope Food Bank, and the American Diabetes Association will launch a new program to help diabetics. It will mean healthier food choices for those who rely on food banks for meals.

Whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, brown rice, beans - foods that are friendly to diabetics. Natalie Copeland is an employee at Lexington Medical Center.  She has diagnosed with type 2 diabetes four years ago.  She started a support group called D2 & Me.  D2 stand for Diabetes Type 2.

Natalie had observed that the offerings at food banks are mostly processed foods higher in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar.  So she shared her vision that food shelters would offer healthy staple foods and fresh produce that are diabetic-friendly.  And it resulted in South Carolina's first diabetic food pantry that opens Saturday.

"I used my D2 & Me support group as my platform to start a dialogue with the American Diabetes Association here in Columbia and also Harvest Hope and reached out to them to see about doing a collaboration to start such a pantry here rather than try to start my own standalone pantry," said Natalie.

Karissa Belk, a diabetes educator, is thrilled with the concept as it gives the diabetic recipients the ability to avoid the unhealthy choices which lead to high blood sugar levels and damage the body.

"You get the elevated blood sugar concentrations in the little bitty vessels in your eyes and kidneys and that's what causes kidney failure, blindness. And high blood sugar leads to thicker blood. So when you have high cholesterol levels in those really fatty foods like your sausages and things like that it makes it easier for the cholesterol to lay down on the inside of your vessels and that's what causes a lot of the issues with heart attacks and strokes in people with diabetes," said Belk.

In South Carolina, one in eight adults has diabetes.  So to help them, the boxes will not include the white bread, white rice, pasta, desserts, and sweet drinks. The boxes, instead, will contain fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lean meats.

Also packed inside -- recipe cards on how to prepare the healthier foods as well as support materials from the American Diabetes Association and Natalie's health and wellness group D2 & Me.

"I didn't think we would actually get to this day. You come up with the idea and to actually finally see it about to come to fruition makes me extremely happy, extremely happy," said Natalie.

For now, the program is working with three pilot pantries - Church of Christ Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia, Sharing God's Love in Irmo and Mission of Hope in Cayce. Those interested in receiving the diabetic-friendly boxes should contact Harvest Hope's Columbia office at 803-254-4432.

And for those of you who donate to pantries, you're asked to keep in mind the healthier foods are better options.

The following are preferred items.

  • Canned low-sodium or no salt added veggies
  • Canned low-sodium, heart-healthy soups
  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • Canned tuna/salmon in water instead of oil
  • Canned seafood like oysters, clams or sardines
  • Condiments: mustard, pickles, vinegar dressings, salsa, hot sauce
  • Olive oil, canola oil
  • Herbs and spices
  • Brown rice, wild rice, combination grains, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, barley, oats, soft corn tortillas
  • Dried beans, lentils, dried bean soups
  • Natural peanut or almond butter without added oil and sugar
  • Gluten-free products

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