Being diagnosed with prediabetes can be an overwhelming experience, especially when the treatment for it requires changes to diet and lifestyle, changes that can feel as daunting and formidable as scaling a mountain. How do I do this? Where do I start? What does healthy eating look like? Can I afford it? What if I don’t like healthy food?

Enter the MATTERbox. A simple box of food that comes with colorful and easy instructions to help its users create amazingly tasty and healthy food. Community Health Worker, Paula Brown, uses them in a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at Hennepin Healthcare and couldn’t say enough about their impact on her class,

“These MATTERboxes are a game-changer. They’re heaven sent! I couldn’t have dreamed of a better tool for our program. The MATTERbox builds on what the patients are learning and reinforces what we talk about by putting the teaching right in their hands.”

Through a generous grant by the Schulze Family Foundation, MATTER is able to partner with Hennepin Healthcare in their fight against diabetes. With 30 million adults nationwide affected, and with more and more children and young people diagnosed every year, prevention programs like the ones through Hennepin Healthcare are crucial to curbing this dangerous disease.

Packed with healthy food and easy-to-make recipes, the MATTERbox is a practical tool to teach patients how to cook healthy meals at home and integrate what they are learning into their daily lives. Each week, the patients share their cooking experiences with each other, offering tips, suggesting substitutions, and encouraging those who are reluctant to try their hand at cooking. For patients like Latoya, the MATTERbox is inspiring change.

Latoya with her MATTERbox after a DPP class.

“I love the food! I didn’t know you could get whole wheat pasta and it’s really good. That’s a great part of this class. I’m trying new foods and eating more healthy foods, and I’m getting into the habit of cooking more at home.”

Latoya’s daughter, ten-year-old Neveah, who attends the classes with her mom, admits she’s a picky eater and hasn’t tried the new recipes her mom has made yet. But that doesn’t mean she’s blowing off the class. As she explained,

“I have a really big sweet tooth and a sodium tooth, so you can see the problems that leads to. But now I’m learning that the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables can quench my craving for something sweet. I don’t always make the right choices, but I’m trying.”

At that, Neveah was showered with praise for her honesty and cheered on to keep trying. Sitting beside her, Latoya beamed. Building this sense of community within the class has proven to be as essential an ingredient to the transformational process as what the patients are learning. Fellow class attendee, Janis, shared her perspective,

Janis, an experienced cook, often shares the recipes she makes from MATTERbox with her friends.

“It’s nice we can come here and talk about our weaknesses. That helps us get stronger because we know we’re not alone trying to be healthier.”

The handwritten YOU MATTER notes of encouragement tucked inside each MATTERbox also help the patients know they’re not alone in their journeys to health. A surprise at first, the notes are now something the patients look forward to, not only for their own encouragement but also as an opportunity to encourage others. Janis shared what often happens when she brings her MATTERbox home.

“My neighbors come over when I open the MATTERbox. They’ll say, ‘Janis, what does your note say this week?’ We read the note together and it’s very uplifting.”

After one of the classes, Paula looked like a proud mom herself, smiling at the changes she’s seen in her patients in just a few short months. “These MATTERboxes are planting seeds to help people. They are a real blessing to us.”

You don’t have to be a charity to change the world. Learn how you can support the MATTERbox program to bring a healthier and brighter world to more families throughout our communities!