FOOD AS MEDICINE Program at KOKOLULU Farm & Retreats
The Challenge and Opportunity
Nutrition is integral to healing throughout the entire cancer journey, but also important to disease prevention. The nutritional program at Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreats teaches Food as Medicine concepts for prevention to disease as well as a solution to help fight cancer and disease in general.
With the current Standard American Diet (SAD) we have witnessed an alarming rate of disease in our country. Using the government’s Body Mass Index (BMI) standard, a calculation based on height and weight, over 66% of Americans are overweight and 34% are obese.
One study, using NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data, estimated that in 2007 in the United States, about 34,000 new cases of cancer in men (4%) and 50,500 in women (7%) were due to obesity. The percentage of cases attributed to obesity varied widely for different cancer types but was as high as 40% for some cancers, particularly endometrial cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma. A projection of the future health and economic burden of obesity in 2030 estimated that continuation of existing trends in obesity will lead to about 500,000 additional cases of cancer in the United States by 2030.
If current trends continue, by 2015, it’s estimated that 75% of American adults will be overweight or obese. By 2030, that estimate increases to more than 86% of adults. When considering the overall trend, however, it’s obvious that Americans are getting fatter and the associated illnesses and healthcare costs that accompany this trend are also on the rise.
Being overweight and out of shape increases not only our risk of cancer, but also our risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver and gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, infertility, and various other related diseases and conditions. All of these are signs of lifestyle mismanagement.
The American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research both estimate that more than 30% of cancer can be prevented through healthy diet, physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight.
The reality is that medical treatments and medicines can cause people with cancer to lose their appetite and energy and put them at risk of even further symptomology and disease. Often, patients do not know or understand what eating an optimally nutritional diet means and respond favorably with education and guidelines. When an optimal nutritional plan can be followed quality of life is improved. Ravasco, et al, published in Supportive Care for Cancer, April 2004, that although cancer stage was the major determinant of patients’ quality of life globally, there were some diagnoses for which the impact of nutritional deterioration combined with deficiencies in nutritional intake may be more important than the stage of the disease process.
While there is plenty of information available to people with cancer, there is also a lot of misinformation. The KFCR Food As Medicine program teaches easy-to-understand-and-follow nutritional guidelines to those who attend cancer retreats. Six group retreats of up to 10 participants are held each year. Individual retreats are facilitated on clients’ requests, on average of 4-6 times annually.
The Food as Medicine program features two components:
- Cancer Retreats – sessions for participants
People with cancer diagnoses need a venue where they can learn to make better food choices for improved health and well-being. The Food As Medicine program at KFCR will be taught in group cancer retreats 6 times per year and at individual cancer retreats as clients schedule them. Clients will learn about the foods that research shows to be most beneficial to healing, understand which foods are most harmful to healing, know how to do healthy food preparation and shop for live, healthy foods, and find out how to grow at least a few of their favorites without using harmful chemicals.
- Community Outreach – Healing Foods Classes offered to community members
Our new community outreach program would consist of two series of Healing Foods classes that cover how to shop, stock and serve healthy nutritional meals, digestible scientific information, and one-on-one health consultations to assist with personalized meal planning. Each series will involve monthly gatherings.
Offered are group field trips to local farms, with a focus on label literacy and appreciating where our food comes from, food and exercise journals including bi–monthly handouts and resources, and the establishment of buddy support systems to mentor one another. Record keeping and monthly tracking is essential to measuring the success of the program and record-keeping and tracking tools will be provided to each participant. We will ask participants to commit to a minimum 6-month program so that we can monitor results. Target number of participants is 20-25 per each six-month series.
Diets and fitness programs are not one-size-fits-all. Bad habits take time to break and the program was developed to take sequential steps without adding stress, and to respect individuals’ heritage. Each participant will work at their pace to achieve optimum health. The participants will learn first- hand, how what we eat affects our health and quality of life. This program provides the participants with mentorship, group and community support as well as the educational tools necessary to learn how to eat and stay fit for a lifetime of health and prosperity.
Research has shown people learn faster when it is hands on and fun. Teaching our Healing Foods Classes is an effective approach that we have witnessed firsthand. During the time in the kitchens we are able to teach life skills, nutrition, and simple techniques while offering the scientific facts to people in a digestible format. We are able to inspire participants to make lifestyle and dietary changes that could help save their lives by showing them how to incorporate the right foods that build their immune system to prevent and battle disease.