Chronic disease and poverty are interconnected in a vicious cycle. Families experiencing long-time food insecurity – not having enough food to live a healthy lifestyle – are the most at risk for developing chronic diseases, but often must reduce their visits to health services.
Loaves & Fishes has collaborated with the faculty and students of Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy to help low-income families become more aware of symptoms of chronic disease. Loaves & Fishes clients can receive a free screening of their blood sugar and blood pressure, along with a consultation on the management of chronic illnesses. Over the last five years, hundreds of free screenings have been completed.
As these health advocates tell our clients, healthy lifestyle choices are the foundation of reducing the risk of developing chronic conditions. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains becomes an essential next step in stabilizing these conditions, as well as limiting the daily intake of salt, sugar, and saturated fats.
“Even little shifts in diet can make an impact on health,” says Ronald Grossmayer, a faculty member who often volunteers at the Loaves & Fishes clinics. “Individuals with borderline test results can start healthy habits right away by looking for the healthy foods in your market.”
Supporting clients with healthy foods and nutritionally balanced dietary choices is a strategic priority for Loaves & Fishes. Our goal is to make sure that healthful foods are available to everyone, and especially to those with chronic illness challenges. Fresh produce, milk and eggs, and Smart Check choices low in sodium, saturated fats, and sugars are a welcome sight to our grocery visitors. In fact, recent evaluations have told us that these healthy foods make up 72% of our grocery carts, on average. Thanks to the Midwestern University team and all the individuals who help to provide these healthy foods, we are impacting the burden of chronic disease for our community.