Food Stamps

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It’s no secret that being on food stamps doesn’t equal a full month’s worth of groceries. While SNAP benefits are great at the beginning of the month, there never seems to be enough 30 days later, and certain portions of the demographic suffer more than others.

Diabetics are at risk for a whole host of side health problems, such as poor circulation, hypoglycemia, hypertension, and many more. It’s especially important that diabetics are extremely vigilant when it comes to their health so that as many of these side effects and complications are as reduced as possible.

However, being on food stamps compounds that desire, researchers have found. A study in Health Affairs examined all hospital admissions in California from 2000 to 2008, with a sharp divide based on income. Only 200 out of every 100,000 high-income people went in for hypoglycemia, versus 240 out of 100,000 low-income people in the first week of the month alone. As the weeks went on, though, the number of low-income Californians seeking treatment for hypoglycemia kept rising: 260 in the second week, 290 in the third, and 300 in the last.

The authors of the study have linked a month-end shortage of food with low-income diabetics on food stamps as not giving their bodies the nourishment it needs, resulting in more hospital visits to treat diabetes-related complications. Although diabetics may still be taking the meds they need, a lack of food means there’s less sugar in their bloodstream, causing symptoms like sweating, nausea and mental confusion. If left untreated, a consistent lack of blood sugar can turn severe and lead to comas or even death.

Further cementing the authors’ findings is the month-end spike food banks see as SNAP benefits dry up and recipients scramble to feed their families. While running out of food stamps at the end of the month isn’t good for anyone, it’s particularly damaging for diabetics whose bodies can’t handle glucose levels yo-yoing every month. The high-low-high-low cycle, if maintained over time, leads to increased kidney failure, seizures, amputations, and other high/low blood sugar-related illnesses.

But perhaps the saddest part of the study is that it revealed a vicious cycle between low-income, diabetics, and health-related issues. Low-income people tend to become diabetic because of the neighborhoods they live in—where there tends to be fewer food and exercise options—but diabetic people who live in “poor” neighborhoods tend to manage their diabetes less efficiently than those who live in high-income areas.

So if low-income diabetics need to get more money to manage their diabetes better, where does the answer come from?

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