Partners in Fairness
The ADA joins a Boston nonprofit in bringing food and shoes to people in need
When Joyce Williams became director of Fair Foods Inc., she knew that in addition to getting fresh, healthy food to people in need throughout Boston, she wanted to ensure people took advantage of health care opportunities. The nonprofit organization had just launched its Fair Shoes program, which helps qualified Medicare patients get diabetes-friendly shoes free of charge. Williams also wanted to get a message out to people. That’s when she was introduced to Albert Whitaker, the American Diabetes Association’s director of mission delivery in New England. It was a good fit.
“The more we talked about it, the more I could see some synergy: nutrition, education to the community … all in the city of Boston,” Whitaker says. And so a partnership grew, and for the past two years, anywhere Fair Foods has gone, the ADA has been, too. Fair Foods provides bags of fresh produce for $2 each at many sites around Boston, including senior centers, churches, health centers, and low-income housing sites. Now, when the program distributes bags of food, Association volunteers provide diabetes information and organize support groups.
Whitaker says he sees many people who are either in denial about diabetes or just not aware that they are at risk. He talks about risk factors, as well as how to make small lifestyle changes to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, or to manage the disease. Program staff and volunteers give healthy-eating tips related to the foods in the Fair Foods bags. The ADA has also brought in podiatrists to share information about diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage that may harm feet.
Williams says she’s thrilled with the outreach and information both organizations are able to provide. The focus is on senior citizens (particularly with the Fair Shoes program; see “Getting Shoes Through Medicare,” below), but the benefits of education span generations. “I think it’s really, really critical for elders to be made aware of what diabetes is and is not,” Williams says. “But it’s also important for younger people to be aware as well. If we can get an intergenerational program going … that combination of wisdom and skills is priceless.”
To learn more about Fair Foods, its collaboration with the Association, and its service locations, visit fairfoods.org.
Getting Shoes Through Medicare
Medicare will pay for one pair of diabetes-friendly shoes every year for those who qualify. Medicare recipients with one or more of the following conditions are eligible for the shoe benefit: previous amputation or partial amputation, poor circulation, numbness of the feet, or feet with a callus, previous ulceration, or foot deformity.