Food insecurity is associated with negative chronic health outcomes, yet few studies have examined how providing medically appropriate food assistance to food-insecure individuals may improve health outcomes in resource-rich settings. We evaluated a community-based food support intervention in the San Francisco Bay Area for people living with HIV and/or type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) to determine the feasibility, acceptability, and potential impact of the intervention on nutritional, mental health, disease management, healthcare utilization, and physical health outcomes. The 6-month intervention provided meals and snacks designed to comprise 100% of daily energy requirements and meet nutritional guidelines for a healthy diet. We assessed paired outcomes at baseline and 6 months using validated measures. Paired t tests and McNemar exact tests were used with continuous and dichotomous outcomes, respectively, to compare pre-post changes. Fifty-two participants (out of 72 initiators) had both baseline and follow-up assessments, including 23 with HIV, 24 with T2DM, and 7 with both HIV and T2DM. Median food pick-up adherence was 93%. Comparing baseline to follow-up, very low food security decreased from 59.6% to 11.5% (p < 0.0001). Frequency of consumption of fats (p = 0.003) decreased, while frequency increased for fruits and vegetables (p = 0.011). Among people with diabetes, frequency of sugar consumption decreased (p = 0.006). We also observed decreased depressive symptoms (p = 0.028) and binge drinking (p = 0.008). At follow-up, fewer participants sacrificed food for healthcare (p = 0.007) or prescriptions (p = 0.046), or sacrificed healthcare for food (p = 0.029). Among people with HIV, 95% adherence to antiretroviral therapy increased from 47 to 70% (p = 0.046). Among people with T2DM, diabetes distress (p < 0.001), and perceived diabetes self-management (p = 0.007) improved. Comprehensive, medically appropriate food support is feasible and may improve multiple health outcomes for food-insecure individuals living with chronic health conditions. Future studies should formally test the impact of medically appropriate food support interventions for food-insecure populations through rigorous, randomized controlled designs.
Keywords: Community-based; Diabetes; Food; Food assistance; Food security; Food support; HIV; Intervention; Medically tailored; Nutrition.