Editor, County Press
REFUGIO — The prevalence of diabetes in the United States has grown to epidemic proportions. Untreated, the disease is a silent killer. Becky Garza of the Diabetic Support Group at Refugio Memorial Hospital is trying to make life easier on the victims of the disease.
On Nov. 1, 1994, Garza and the late registered nurse Betty Wallace and former director of nurses Cindy Keese teamed up to begin the group. Their goal was to provide free information and assistance to county residents suffering from the disease.
Garza, who continues to oversee food services at the hospital, is the sole remaining founder.
“In December, I’m going to retire and Verna Jones (RN) will take over,” Garza said. “I’ve been at Refugio Memorial Hospital for 38 years and it’s time – I hope I’m making the right decision.”
Throughout the years, the number of lives that have improved as a result of the knowledge provided by the support group is immeasurable. Judging from the attendance at each month’s meetings, the amount of assistance to the group could be enormous.
During the May meeting, registered dietitian Debbie Baldwin of Sandia prepared a litany of dishes for a tasting bee of diabetic-friendly foods. Baldwin has been working in the area since 1979.
“Proportion control is the key,” Baldwin told the group.
With Garza’s assistance, the dietitian prepared oven-baked tuna cakes, roasted cauliflower with herbs and parmesan, brown sugar strawberry shortcakes, meat sauce & penne pasta, choco-peanut butter popcorn, and easy berry pie. By the end of the hour, the food was done and the group members tasted the cuisine.
“This isn’t like anything I’ve had before,” said Reymundo Rocha of Refugio.
“It’s really quite delicious,” said Martha Billings of Woodsboro, a regular member.
“Debbie comes twice a year to cook and show us new recipes and techniques,” Garza said.
Most members appeared to enjoy the dishes.
“This is good,” said Red Euton of Refugio.
“I like to cook in order to introduce recipes that people can try,” Baldwin said.
The secret to success is fresh ingredients used in easy-to-prepare recipes, Baldwin advised.
The dietitian introduced ingredients like Panko, Japanese bread crumbs, and spicy mustard into the tuna cakes.Natural peanut butter and semi-sweet chocolate mixed into already packaged, air-popped popcorn makes a healthy snack, said Baldwin as she carefully measured, mixed, patted and stirred ingredients.
Paula Marchak questioned Baldwin about her use of wine in the pasta dish and the difference between sea salt and regular salt.
“Our programs provide useful information for diabetics,” Garza said. “Not only food but other health-care issues like foot and dental care.”
As the number of diabetics in the county continues to increase, Garza will soldier on, searching out ways to provide vital information to improve the quality of life for the members of the group.
“Everyone is welcome to come and it’s free,” Garza said.