Nursing students partner with St. Albert Food Bank to encourage diabetic-friendly donations
Third-year nursing students Elizabeth Wiley, Bailey Rozak, Samantha Barker and Gillian Richards spent four weeks at the food bank earlier this semester building content and a plan for the organization’s Facebook page to encourage diabetes-friendly donations.
“Don’t forget the lentils!” calls out Suzan Krecsy, executive director of the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village. She's talking to a group of four MacEwan University Bachelor of Science in Nursing students as they stack healthy food choices on a big table surrounded by walk-in freezers and tall shelves of non-perishable goods.
Those tiny legumes, along with other lean proteins and fresh fruit and vegetables are the building blocks of a diabetic-friendly hamper. Assembling one of those hampers is one of the many experiences students in nurse educator Susan Knibbs’ third-year community nursing courses have as part of an ongoing health promotion and education project with the food bank.
Back in the fall of 2016, a group of Susan’s students partnered with the food bank to come up with a plan, logo and name for their project—the Initiative for Diabetes Education and Awareness (IDEA) Project. A few months later, a new group of students researched and gathered information about managing diabetes for the food bank’s website, and a few months after that, another group of students created a digital story to capture the experiences of people living with diabetes who use the food bank.
I’ve been guilty of it too—digging in the back of my pantry to find something to give to the food bank. I didn’t really think much about the next step. Where that food was going. Who was going to eat it. How some families wouldn’t be able to use my donation because it could negatively affect their health.
During our community nursing rotation in St. Albert, we talked to families and clients who used the food bank and who were diabetic themselves or had someone with diabetes in their family. They volunteered to come talk to us and share their stories, and it was powerful. Read more of Stephanie's story on Facebook.
—Stephanie, 4th year student, Bachelor of Science in Nursing program
“Every client we spoke with was so grateful for what they got, but many clients said they were only able to use less than 50 per cent of their hampers,”says Stephanie Truong, now a fourth-year nursing student.
Suzan knows this story all too well. While the food bank does its best to provide healthy options for clients, handing over a hamper filled with processed food to a family struggling with diabetes is tough. That’s why the current group of nursing students working on the IDEA Project is focusing on getting the word out about healthy donations.
Elizabeth Wiley, Gillian Richards, Bailey Rozak and Samantha Barker spent their four weeks at the food bank earlier this semester building content and a plan for the organization’s Facebook page to encourage diabetes-friendly donations.
Diabetic-friendly donation ideas
Tips from our nursing students to make your donations healthier for people who have diabetes:
Soups (choose low salt/cholesterol), beans and lentils Canned tomatoes, canned vegetables Granola and healthy breakfast cereals Oatmeal, rice Cans of tuna Dried fruits and nuts.
Grocery store gift cards and cash donations are also a great choice. They allow food banks to provide fresh and frozen staples like eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, fresh produce, meat and grainy breads.
“We’ve created five weeks’ worth of posts, a set of guidelines and a plan that the food bank can use moving forward,” says Gillian. “We’re using research that earlier groups of students have done on diabetes education to create the Facebook content, and that makes it feel like we’re really building on something.”
Suzan says it’s valuable work that simply wouldn’t be possible without the students’ help. But the food bank and its clients aren’t the only ones who benefit.
“It's easy to care and be passionate about this project,” says Elizabeth. “At the beginning of this rotation, none of us really even knew what community nurses did, but now we see that there is so much potential. It’s about looking at what a community needs, being in the lives of our patients and clients, and helping them address their health needs in a different way.”
Her faculty member is thrilled to hear it. “These learning experiences breathe life into nursing theory, knowledge and skills,” says Susan. “Students gain insight into their own values, biases and perceptions, and a whole new understanding of how health promotion and appropriate nursing interventions can improve quality of life for individuals and communities.”
The IDEAS Project is a great example of that. While the focus is on encouraging donations to fit the needs of food bank clients with diabetes, in the end everyone wins.
“You don't have to be a diabetic to eat a diabetic hamper,” says Suzan. “It's the healthiest option, so instead of singling out our diabetic clients and leaving everyone else with whatever’s left, we ultimately want to make sure all of our clients have access to this type of food.”
Nursing students discovered this, and many other touching and inspiring messages, when flipping through a series of paper plates that the St. Albert Food Bank’s clients use to share a small part of their stories.
Suzan Krecsy, executive director of the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village, gathers donations for a diabetic-friendly hamper.
Nursing faculty member Susan Knibbs (far right) with third-year nursing students Elizabeth Wiley, Bailey Rozak, Samantha Barker and Gillian Richards. The group of students spent four weeks at the food bank earlier this semester building content and a plan for the organization’s Facebook page to encourage diabetes-friendly donations.
It’s a message she plans to share with the other 90 members of Food Banks Alberta. “There are many smaller food banks that can benefit from the work these students are doing,” says Suzan. “Our plan is to show other members how we are educating our clients and our donors. It’s important information to get out there.”
But the work doesn’t end here. The partnership between the St. Albert Food Bank and MacEwan’s nursing students (which actually started close to six years ago) will continue, and so will each class’s incremental contribution to the IDEA Project.
“It really does feel like the sky's the limit,” says Suzan.
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