Tom Shicowich’s story
Tom Shicowich incurred nearly $200,000 in medical bills six years ago after having a toe amputated due to his Type 2 diabetes.
Being more than 100 pounds overweight and on a very tight budget, Tom couldn’t afford fresh fruit or vegetables, so dinner was often fast food or heat and eat food and a soda. "You're supposed to eat healthy, but you have to be able to afford eating healthy," Tom, 56, says. At his grocery store, "all I could afford was canned ravioli or a Hungry Man meal to keep my belly full.”
Six months after enrolling in the Fresh Food Farmacy, the 6-foot-5-inch former high school track competitor lost more than 45 pounds and cut his HBA1C level from 11 to a normal level of less than 7.0. Now, Tom and his girlfriend cook fresh, healthy meals at home, and it’s much easier for him to climb a flight of stairs or take a walk.
Rita Perkins’ story
Rita Perkins, a 58-year-old caretaker to 3 children under 14, has been living with diabetes since 1996. When her care team at Geisinger Kulpmont told her about a new program that would provide diabetes education and consultations with Geisinger dietitians and pharmacists, she decided to enroll.
“At the time, I wasn’t eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” she recalls. “And I realized that I had to get healthy to take care of the kids. I couldn’t let myself go — they depend on me.”
Ms. Perkins joined Geisinger’s Fresh Food Farmacy program in 2016 and never looked back. Since then, she’s seen her blood glucose (A1C) drop from 13.8 to 5.9 percent and she’s lost roughly 60 pounds. She says the program set her up for success because the team took the time to understand her personal situation and needs, then offered guidance accordingly.
“I learned that portion control was a big issue for my family and I,” Ms. Perkins explains. “So, I started using smaller plates when serving dinner and stuck to the recommended serving size. I also knew what to look for when grocery shopping so that we were getting three nutritious meals per day.”
Ms. Perkins credits Fresh Food Farmacy for helping her make strides toward a healthier lifestyle — literally.
“The classes took place a few blocks away from my house, so I started walking there,” says Ms. Perkins. “I found I had more energy and started going on daily walks, tracking my steps on my phone.”
Ms. Perkins’ current goal is to get at least 1,000 steps per day, and she vows to keep up with her exercise routine even though she officially graduated from the program in December 2020. Because not only did the program teach her how to eat well and stay well, but it also showed her what she was capable of on her own.
“I never graduated from high school, so this was my first time wearing a cap and gown,” says Ms. Perkins. “It was a really awesome feeling. I’m so grateful to my team at Geisinger who helped me see that yes, I can do this — not just for me, but for my family.”
Brendalee Plamondon's story
Brendalee Plamondon had to use a motorized scooter to do her grocery shopping. The complications from diabetes, including being overweight and having high HBA1C made getting around was a challenge.
Those challenges brought her to enrolling in the Fresh Food Farmacy program in February 2017. Since joining, she’s been able to celebrate many accomplishments. She's lost 30 pounds and her HBA1C dropped from 8.3 at one point to 6.4.
Brenda and her husband enjoy cooking and eating home cooked meals, and with the food and recommendations she receives from the Fresh Food Farmacy, they're enjoying time in the kitchen and teaching Brenda's young great niece and nephew the importance of eating healthy food and portion sizes.
Brenda no longer needs a scooter to go shopping, needing to only keep a walker handy for trips out to the store, the mall, or mini-golfing with her family.
Dan Huston’s story
When Dan Huston, a registered nurse with Geisinger Health Plan, won a supermarket shopping spree for donating to the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, he knew exactly what to do with his winnings -- donate it all to the Fresh Food Farmacy.
With only two minutes to grab as many groceries as possible at Weis Markets, Dan focused his attention to fresh produce and lean protein including pork and fish.
At checkout, Dan’s total came to $535.79, and Pepsi, the sponsor of the shopping spree, donated an additional $1,500 in Weis gift cards to the Fresh Food Farmacy. “It’s so nice to give back to the community,” Dan said. “I got things that are really needed in the Farmacy.”