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Food Bank of South Jersey’s Eating Well & Diabetes Program

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey supports Food Bank of South Jersey’s program to get healthy food to people in need who have diabetes.

Like a lot of people, Lori Nightlinger was used to eating what she liked, without paying much attention to the long-term health impact. Then a poster she saw at her senior-living apartment building changed her life. “Eating Well & Diabetes” from the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) caught her eye, and she started going to the classes.

The poster promoted a cooking and nutrition class the Pennsauken-based FBSJ would hold in her building over the course of four Wednesdays. She discovered new foods and ways of preparing foods. Since she started doing the things she learned in class, her diabetes symptoms have improved.

  Food Bank of South Jersey’s Eating Well & Diabetes Program


[The video opens with the text #8220;Healthier Together℠” appearing on screen above the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey logo. The screens transitions to the text, “Food Bank of South Jersey: Improving the Well-being of Diabetic Patients Through Nutrition and Healthy Cooking Classes,” and Lori Nightlinger begins speaking. As she speaks, the video transitions through scenes of Lori preparing food and interacting with a cooking instructor from the Food Bank of South Jersey.]

[Lori Nightlinger] I’ve had diabetes for about thirty years. It started when I was pregnant with my first child and I really didn’t know much about it. My name is Lori Nightlinger. I participated in a class called “Eating Well and Diabetes” that was sponsored by the Food Bank of South Jersey. I learned a lot from the class on what to eat and how much to eat, portion control. I have a lot of years left and eating right’s going to help me get to them years.

“Every week we learned new things,” Lori says. Each class of 15 to 20 people would start with a brief nutrition lesson, leading up to the group activity of making a meal based on what had just been taught. For instance: “You really shouldn’t be eating cheeseburgers and hot dogs,” she says. “We couldn’t believe how much fat was in hot dogs.”

The mother of two grown sons who live out of state, Lori was diagnosed with diabetes 26 years ago. For most of that time she kept her job as a security guard at Exxon Mobil’s Paulsboro facility. But eventually a bone infection cost her a leg, and today she uses a wheelchair.

The 90-minute classes stressed making smart food choices, including balance and portion control, and how to eat healthy when eating out. Participants learned from a cooking instructor, and they got a recipe book and free groceries each week, so they could practice on their own.

The class follows FBSJ’s mission of making sure hungry people who can’t afford healthy food have enough to eat. It recognizes that food-related problems need a proactive approach and is part of a program that’s responding to a nationwide crisis: Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent yearly on diabetes treatment and care. The FBSJ program is geared toward people whose incomes limit their ability to manage their health and well-being.

True to its mission to support organizations that make New Jersey healthier, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey gave the FBSJ a $25,000 grant. It helps the nonprofit’s program to give health and nutrition guidance and cooking techniques in English and Spanish to people with diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions. The FBSJ and Inspira Health Network work together to have nurses and dietitians present nutrition and health info.

Lori’s experience is proof that the program is making a difference. Now she pays attention not only to what she eats — she stopped eating hot dogs and sausages — but also how much. And she’s seeing a difference.

“Since I started doing the things I learned in the class, like portion control and healthy options, my diabetes has gotten better,” she says. “A lot of people would benefit from this course. I share the new recipes with my friends, and they’re surprised at how tasty and healthy they are. We have a whole crew that comes to the classes now, and I’m looking forward to learning more new recipes.”

“Quinoa — I never knew what it was,” she adds. “Now I eat it all the time!”