Diabetes education hits the grocery store

Published 9:42 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pharmacist Tom Leavitt, center, explains the nutritional value of vegetables in the Farm Fresh produce section on Wednesday. It was part of a diabetes education class in which Carol Boone-Thompson, left, and Audrey Thorpe participated.

Farm Fresh pharmacist Tom Leavitt wandered around the produce section at the North Main Street store on Wednesday.

With a group of people in tow, he showed off the correct serving size for an apple, examined the nutritional contents of a bottle of salad dressing and pointed the way to the avocados.

It was part of a free diabetes education class offered by the American Diabetes Association. More classes are coming up in the next month.

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“This is the missing link,” said Dr. Shawne Bryant, programs assistant for the association. “You get the diagnosis in your doctor’s office and you walk out” not knowing where to start, she said.

The classes provide awareness and education about the risk factors, causes and complications of diabetes, as well as lifestyle changes and nutritional choices that can prevent the disease or help manage it.

“You can’t begin to take measures to prevent it if you don’t know to be concerned about it,” Bryant said. “We’re not making the diagnosis early and, more importantly, we’re not teaching people the preventative measures.”

Diabetes is a disease in which the body has trouble processing the sugar created from food. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin, which is the hormone used to get sugar from blood into the muscles.

Only about 5 percent of diabetics have Type 1. In the far more common Type 2, diabetics consume too much food for the body to process effectively, and the body becomes insulin-resistant.

For Wednesday’s first class in the series, only three people attended, but organizers are confident the Farm Fresh community room will be filled once people hear about the classes.

Carol Boone-Thompson came to the class because her brother heard about it and made her go.

“My brother told me I better,” she said. “I’m what they call pre-diabetic. To me, that’s the same thing.”

She said she hoped to learn more about how to have a healthier diet at the class.

“My diet, while I think it’s healthy, needs some tweaking,” she said. Gesturing toward her friend Audrey Thorpe, she said, “I invited her to come with me because I figured she could use some tweaking too.”

Thorpe said she has diabetes.

Lawrence Lambert, manager of mission delivery and community outreach for the American Diabetes Association, said the classes are meant to alert people to the disease. Suffolk and Western Tidewater have some of the highest rates in the state for diabetes diagnoses and complications.

“We want to wake people up to this disease before they wake up in the hospital,” he said.

More classes will be held on the following dates at Farm Fresh, 1401 N. Main St. The class includes a store tour, which helps participants learn to shop for and plan healthy meals. To RSVP for the classes, email llambert@diabetes.org or call 424-6662 ext. 3277.

Oct. 1-2, 5 to 8 p.m.

Oct. 19, 5 to 8 p.m.

Oct. 20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.