Toni's Kitchen is teaming up with Summit Health Cares and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in a year-long program to help screen guests for diabetes and help improve their blood sugar levels, their blood pressure and body mass index. The program began in October of 2022 and is offered during Toni's Choice Pantry grocery service. Summit Health and the Food Bank have staff and trained volunteers who come to Toni's Kitchen on the third Thursday of every month to screen participants in the program and offer guidance on leading a healthy lifestyle, including nutritionists on healthy eating.
Nancy Xenakis is a staff member at Toni's Kitchen who oversees Toni's involvement in the program. She says that in addition to being screened and tracking their levels on these three diabetes markers on their own cards which they are encouraged to review with their primary care doctor and/or specialist, participants get other help as well. "They receive health education on how to diet, exercise, and introduce other lifestyle changes that can work for them–just simple ways to improve their blood pressure, blood sugar level and/or weight."
Participants can also talk to a nutritionist from the Community Food Bank about challenges they may be having with healthy eating and developing a realistic, individualized plan. All of the participants received a cookbook with healthy recipes, which Xenakis says was "a big hit."
Xenakis says that the Food Bank also provides food for the program. "They send us in advance, boxed food, dry goods and produce that a part of a diabetic diet…healthy food. On their way out, [participants] pick up their food boxes."
Currently there are 32 guests participating in the program. There is already a list of guests who are interested in participating in the next program cycle this fall. Summit Health and the Food Bank are now conducting meetings with the 13 participating pantry partners to obtain feedback which will be considered for the sixth version of the Program this fall.
Programs like this one can help guests of Toni's Kitchen become more independent and improve their overall health. We're proud to be working with Summit Health and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey on this important program.