FAYETTEVILLE – A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) researcher recently received a $991,145 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study the nutritional health of low-income individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Christopher Long, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, will use the award from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to determine methods of improving the diet and lifestyles of Arkansans with type 2 diabetes who rely on local food pantries.

More than 15 percent of Arkansas households regularly experience food insecurity, which is defined by the USDA as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. The national average for households with food insecurity is just over 11 percent. Food insecurity is associated with a more than 100 percent increase in prevalence of type 2 diabetes in adults compared to food-secure households.

Long is working with UAMS’ Office of Community Health and Research and food pantries throughout Arkansas to produce educational materials designed to help adults manage their type 2 diabetes. The materials will be delivered along with food boxes containing items appropriate for diabetics. This project is part of the Office of Community Health and Research’s ongoing commitment to address health disparities.

“Our goal is to develop easy-to-understand information for people from a variety of backgrounds that will help them manage their diabetes and adopt better eating habits,” said Long. “Most food pantries are unable to provide food that meets the needs of people with type 2 diabetes so it’s important that they have access to healthy foods and the information they need to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Long will also work with UAMS’ Office of Interprofessional Education to develop a training program designed to help medical students recognize food insecurity-related issues like type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

This work is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant no. 2020-68015-30734 /project accession no. 1021697 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.