Diabeating Food Insecurity

If you’re new to Fairfax County, along with the abundance of strip malls and parking garages, you may be surprised by something else: the number of dialysis clinics. Dialysis is a treatment offered to people with diabetes experiencing kidney disease. There are many dialysis clinics due to the prevalence of diabetes in the area. Although it’s not well known, diabetes is connected with food insecurity.  

Food insecurity has wide-reaching repercussions. From mental health to academic success, food insecurity alters lives. Recently, food insecurity has emerged as a risk factor for developing T2 Diabetes. 

In 2015, Feeding America found that 84.1% of food-insecure people in the United States have prediabetes. The ADA’s 2021 Report found that 16% of people in food-insecure households had diabetes. Alarmingly, 22% of diabetics with kidney complications are food-insecure. 

Diabetes rates are higher because “food insecure [Americans] are getting too many of the wrong kind [of calories].” The “cheapest and most readily available foods” are typically high in saturated fat and calories.

Diabetes management is more difficult for food-insecure patients. In a study conducted by UC SF, 63% of diabetic participants with low food security reported having “poorly managed diabetes.” Food-insecure diabetics are more likely to postpone purchasing medicine or buy food instead. The Springer Nutrition 2014 report explains that managing diabetes becomes difficult because the “choice between food and medication predisposes individuals either to hypoglycemia (if medications are taken instead of food) or hyperglycemia (if food is eaten instead of medications taken).” The pressure to make a choice between these two necessities is dangerous and hurts health outcomes. 

Food for Others works to help food-insecure households better manage diabetes rates by providing fresh produce. Food for Others served 28% fresh produce during FY 2021. Food for Others also receives emergency referrals from DaVita Dialysis and other non-profits that work in the health sector. These referrals ease patients’ concerns about food access, enabling them to better manage their symptoms.