New Cedar Rapids program measures impact of fresh produce on managing diabetes

Organizers hope they can expand it to more patients so more people can benefit.
Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 10:42 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Can just having access to fresh vegetables make a difference in managing diabetes? That’s the question at the center of “VeggieRx” program that is connecting patients with healthy foods.

Tuesday afternoon, people lined up outside Jim’s Foods in southwest Cedar Rapids to pick up corn, collard greens, eggplants, and more, all of it grown in Linn County. The distribution site wasn’t just for those in the “VeggieRx” program, but it was one of the set-ups where the 18 participants in the program can join in on getting their produce.

“You start looking at CDC data, we know that access to food has a— just a large effect on diabetes and pre-diabetes, both,” said Emmaly Renshaw, Executive Director of Feed Iowa First, which runs the food distribution sites.

The program is for diabetic patients of the Eastern Iowa Health Center who were selected based on a number of factors including income, food insecurity, or just needing more assistance in living a healthy lifestyle.

“The diets that doctors are recommending them, a lot of patients don’t have access to actually be able to have those diets,” said Emily Williams, Nurse Care Manager at the Eastern Iowa Health Center.

The program is in week 4 out of twelve. At the end organizers will look at patients’ A1C numbers, which measures a person’s average blood sugar levels over the past three months.

The data will shed light on if simply having access to fresh vegetables was enough to bring patients’ numbers down.

The results will only be from 18 people, but could eventually have larger implications.

“In Linn County, we have about a 10% - 11% diabetic population. And pre-diabetic is almost one-third. And so Linn County, pre-diabetic, we’re looking at somewhere between 40 and 50,000 individuals who may develop the disease in the next five years,” said Renshaw.

Right now this program isn’t looking at thousands of people. Instead, it’s hoping to help a handful not only understand how to live a healthier life, but actually have the resources to make it happen.

“You can start with small changes and really see results,” said Williams.