Food & Health

Food & Health

Whether young or old, male or female, tall or short, everyone needs to eat. Food is the cornerstone for survival. We also know that what you eat and drink and how much affects your health. Everyone can afford to eat better and everyone needs to be active, especially with skyrocketing health care costs. Food, nutrition, and health are important for each and every person:

  • Almost one in five children are considered overweight
  • Foodborne illnesses account for 76 million illnesses each year
  • Seven of every ten Americans die from preventable chronic diseases like heart disease

Virginia Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Programs offer education on a wide variety of topics to help you, your children, your schools, and your communities eat better, move more, and save money. We put research-based information to work. 

A sample of programs includes:

  • Cooking on a budget with Suppers Made Simple and the Family Nutrition Program
  • Childhood obesity prevention with Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids and Food Friends and Mighty Moves™
  • Safe food preparation and handling training to prevent foodborne illness, including ServSafe® for food service workers at restaurants and institutions and Cooking for Crowds™ for folks preparing food for large groups
  • Buying and preparing local and seasonal food
  • Nutrition for people with diabetes, including Dining with Diabetes™
  • Weight management
  • Food preservation
Balanced Living with Diabetes

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Virginia and contributes to deaths from heart disease and stroke. More than 530,000 Virginians have been diagnosed with diabetes, and it is estimated that 2 million Virginians have prediabetes, which means they are at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Prevalence of diabetes is higher among African Americans, the elderly, and the medically underserved. Diabetes has a high cost in terms of money, lost productivity, and quality of life. 

Virginia Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences agents partner with the Virginia Tech Center for Public Health Practice and Research and local registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators to offer the Balanced Living With Diabetes program. Funding was received from the Virginia Department of Health, the Obici Healthcare Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Nursing Research). 

Balanced Living With Diabetes helps people with diabetes and their families learn more about the nutritional management of their disease and the lifestyle practices that will prevent or slow the development of diabetes complications. The program includes four weekly classes followed by a reunion class three months later that provides an opportunity for evaluation and follow-up.

After completing the program, the majority of class members indicate that they are using a meal planning method, such as the Idaho Plate Method, to help manage their carbohydrate intake. Many participants also increase the number of steps they walk each day. 

As part of the program evaluation, those with diagnosed diabetes have a hemoglobin A1c test at the first class and again at the reunion class. Hemoglobin A1c indicates a person’s average blood sugar level over the three prior months and evaluates diabetes management. The American Diabetes Association recommends an A1c of less than 7 percent in Type 2 diabetes. Average A1c levels decreased by 0.5 percent among participants whose A1c was above the recommended level at the start of the program. For every 1 percent decrease in A1c, there is a 40 percent decrease in the risk of diabetes complications such as blindness or kidney failure. Preventing one case of kidney failure saves Virginians at least $72,000 a year in dialysis costs.

For more information on Balanced Living With Diabetes, contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.

Read more about the Balanced Living With Diabetes program in Innovations.