Quinnipiac medical student receives Arnold P. Gold Foundation funding to develop grocery voucher program to address food insecurity among Type 2 diabetes patients at Fair Haven Community Health Care

Headshot of Janani Arangan

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anani Arangan, a second-year medical student at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac, has received a $2,000 Student Summer Fellowship from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

Arangan will use the fellowship for her project, “Grocery Voucher Pilot: Addressing Food Insecurity Among Low-Income Patients with Type 2 Diabetes in New Haven, Connecticut.”

“My project seeks to create a sustainable grocery voucher program where patients from Fair Haven Community Health Care, who are low income and have Type 2 diabetes, can afford foods that are good for their health,” she said.

Arangan learned about the needs of Fair Haven patients while volunteering at a health fair in her first year of medical school.

“At the fair, I discovered that many Fair Haven residents have limited access to healthy foods, encounter language barriers in seeking services, and may not have access to governmental assistance due to immigration status,” she said. “This was happening right here in New Haven, our local community.”

Arangan decided to help. She reached out and connected with Dr. Mellisa Pensa, a family medicine physician at Fair Haven Community Health Care.  They decided to form a partnership between the clinic and a nearby C-Town Supermarkets. They designed a program in which clinic patients with Type 2 diabetes can consult a diabetic nurse educator, then receive $25 vouchers for groceries at C-Town.

She is enrolling Fair Haven patients into the pilot program this summer. They will receive vouchers once a month over three months. Arangan will track their progress and the success of the program through interviews and surveys as part of her final capstone project at Quinnipiac.

“We know that patients with diabetes and who are low-income are especially vulnerable during COVID-19,” she said. “Food insecurity is a major issue. The voucher program aims to empower patients by giving them a choice in how they purchase food and providing opportunities to engage with the clinic to improve their health.”

Arangan said she will use the Gold fellowship to pay for her living expenses this summer while she works on her project. She also received a fellowship from Quinnipiac to support her work. Dr. Pensa helped secure a grant to pay for the grocery vouchers.

The Gold fellowship was extremely competitive. Arangan will be required to submit a final report to the foundation at the end of the grant period.

“We received over 70 very strong applications this year leading to a difficult review process,” the foundation wrote to Arangan. “Our review committee was impressed with your application and the work you proposed, and we are excited to support your project.”

“The grants are a big help, because the money allows me to focus solely on the project,” said Arangan, who earned bachelor’s degrees in environmental health and Portuguese and Spanish from Duke University, and completed a pre-health postbaccalaureate program at California State University, East Bay.

The Gold Student Summer Fellowship program offers opportunities for medical students to complete a research or service project related to community health. Projects must be focused on understanding and/or enhancing culturally competent practice, developing skills to become a relationship-centered physician, and addressing a public health need in an underserved community or population. The foundation is particularly interested in projects that encourage collegial and interprofessional teamwork, are creative, and designed and implemented by students, and, will encourage a lasting or systemic change.