As a registered dietician and health educator, Viki Shayna, PhD, had been frustrated by unsuccessful programs that aimed to improve participants’ health, especially diabetes. 92% of diabetes cases are related to diet. The disease affects people worldwide, is being seen at younger and younger ages, and has a profound and progressive effect on all bodily systems including the eyes, heart, kidneys, and circulation. Too much blood sugar is a toxin.
After volunteering at a Gleaners Cooking Matters class, Viki realized this program was different. It was having an impact. Her experience led her to conduct an exploratory research project during the completion of her PhD.
Viki had two questions driving her research.
1. Why is Cooking Matters different?
2. How is it impacting people’s lives?
48 women participated in the study; 24 in a Cooking Matters program and 24 in a control group. They completed a questionnaire, and medical measurements were taken before and after the study, including hemoglobin A1C – an important measure of blood sugar.
The women who participated in the Cooking Matters program experienced a statistically significant 26% drop in hemoglobin A1C with a mean time of 9 months. This is especially remarkable when compared to the .2% drop that’s typically expected from a physician’s care as reported by the American Diabetes Association.
How is Cooking Matters different?
Cooking Matters treats people with respect. The underlying belief is that people know what is best for them. The program facilitators (a nutrition specialist and a chef) ask how can you apply this to your life with the understanding that each person is going to implement it in a different way. Cooking Matters provides hands-on experience, giving participants the opportunity to practice and gain confidence. 90% of diabetes management is self-care that’s done away from a medical setting, and Cooking Matters empowers people to manage their own healthy lifestyle.
Viki’s research also had a second component. She used the PhotoVoice method to encourage participants to document their experience, asking the question: How has your experience with food changed since participating in Cooking Matters? To learn more about the project and see the women’s photos, click here.
What’s next for Viki? She plans to do a follow-up study and is currently seeking funding for her research.