A few months have passed since CHEER partnered with healthcare providers, Adventist Healthcare and Mobile Med, and local food providers, Manna and Crossroads Community Food Network, to initiate a program that uses food as medicine for patients with diet related illnesses and who do not have secure access to healthy food. The Long Branch Healthy Food Access Program allows people, especially those suffering from diabetes, to receive twelve weeks of healthy food and be informed about healthier options in order to avoid any major symptoms or drawbacks. According to the CDC, diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body cannot process food properly in order to give a person the energy they need. As a result, diabetes increases the amount of sugar in the blood that over times causes complications, such as blindness, kidney failure, circulatory problems, and others that can lead to early death. Research has shown that consuming fruits and vegetables is likely to decrease the symptoms of diabetes and/or lower the risk of developing this disorder. Thus, the goal of the Food Access Program is to get people with diabetes to start eating more fruits and vegetables to improve their health.
Clients who have signed up for the program are first asked for their initial weight and A1c (a clinical measure of blood sugar control), and are then required a follow up every three months. Manna provides a box of diabetic friendly food once a month. Additionally, once a month clients are given $15 to buy their own fruits and vegetables at the Crossroads Community Food Network Farmer’s Market. CHEER has an information table at the Farmers’ Market every week to raise awareness about diabetes, healthy living, and offer connections to health care access and other resources that promote health and well-being. Workers and volunteers, also, promote healthy eating while giving assistance to the community by taking their blood pressure.
Having been at the Farmer’s Market, I saw the positivity of the team working there to welcome the community and help them out with any questions they had. It was a friendly environment which consisted of all the organizations working together to promote healthy living. There were also many locals that stopped by every Wednesday making it a more intimate encounter. People who did approach the CHEER stand were all so grateful about the Food Access Program saying that they felt better than ever. They believed that having these fresh organic fruits and vegetables was not only helping them combat with their diabetes, but it was also helping them with their overall living.
With the immense growth that CHEER has had as an organization, it is clear that it is gaining more recognition across the region. CHEER, alongside its partners, have helped make a change in the community, not only with the Food Access Program, but with many other important programs. CHEER is expanding people’s network of relationships to promote health, opportunity, connection, and well-being.