Katie McKilligan on Managing Diabetes

Diabetes Awareness

Katie McKilligan led a Nutrition Education Session on using food to manage diabetes for youth in the Eastside After School Program at the East Side Boxing Club.

With our Nutrition Education Sessions, Good Food aims to educate and empower youth to lead healthy lives and inspire others to create the same change.

Diabetes rates have spiked across Canada in the last 20 years, disproportionately affecting Indigenous people and low-income populations. Diabetes rates are 3 to 5 times higher among the Indigenous community compared to the rest of the population. Indigenous and low-income populations are most commonly affected by type 2 diabetes.

Youth at the Eastside After School Program have friends, family and community members with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Our goal with this session was to empower youth with information on how to manage diabetes.

Nutrition, Education, Involved youth, diabetes
Katie McKilligan at the Eastside Afterschool Program.

About Katie

Katie McKilligan grew up in Vancouver. Her passion for soccer started at a young age and led her to play for the University of Calgary. During this time Katie started experiencing symptoms including hormonal imbalances and energy crashes which affected her overall quality of life and ability to play soccer. Doctors failed to diagnose Katie for the first year she experienced symptoms. She was eventually diagnosed at age 22 with type 1 diabetes.

Katie has overcome many challenges with diabetes.Through these challenges she’s learned how to properly manage the disease for herself and still plays soccer. She’s inspired by helping others understand how to manage the disease for themselves. She’s driven to spread awareness amongst a variety of communities to broaden the overall understanding of the diabetes epidemic and its need for support.

Katie now works for Roche – a leading medical research company. She’s passionate about advocating for reliable access, knowledge and support for people suffering from diabetes.

Katie created a website that is dedicated to supporting Jamaican youth suffering from type 1 diabetes as well as advocating for awareness of the disease. Katie has committed to raise $63,000 over the course of three years for Life for a Child. Life for a Child is a program supporting the medical needs of children in developing countries living with diabetes.

Key Points

  • Diabetes is a terminal and metabolic disease.
  • Diabetes can affect people in different ways.
  • Ask the diabetics in your life, what symptoms they experience when they have low or high blood sugar. Understanding their symptoms helps you identify when they happen.
  • Living with diabetes means managing a chronic illness 24 hours a day. You must understand how much insulin you’ll need for everything you ingest, and consider the symptoms in everything you do.
  • Diabetics need more self-care in order to maintain their mental and physical health.
  • Diabetics need to administer, test and monitor insulin throughout the day. There are different methods of doing this and it depends on the individual’s needs for the most effective option.
  • Make yourself aware of foods that spike blood sugar levels.

Understanding Diabetes: The Basics

During Katie’s session, one of the youth asked a very important question:

‘How can we support members of our community who have diabetes?’

Katie said one of the biggest ways to support people with diabetes is by understanding it.

Nutrients and Absorption

In order to understand diabetes, we must first understand insulin and its relation to how food is processed in our body.

Image 1.

Nutrient Groups

Breaking down the different nutrient groups to a molecular level helps us understand how it affects our body. Youth in our programs have already been introduced to different nutrient groups from past sessions.Taking the next step to understanding how nutrients are  processed was a smooth transition.

We started by collectively identifying foods that belonged to each group. For instance, chicken is a healthy protein and avocados are a healthy source of fat. When it comes to carbohydrates quinoa, yams and brown rice were all shouted out. It’s important to understand carbohydrates contain three different molecules; sugars, starch and fiber. Most carbohydrates have all three however, contain different levels of each.

Nutrient Processing

The next steps to understanding nutrients is understanding how the body absorbs them. Image 1 represents how proteins, fats and carbs are absorbed and used for different bodily functions.


Protein molecules attach to enzyme molecules and are carried throughout the body for the purpose of muscle growth as well as providing the energy needed for bodily functions, especially healing injuries.


Fat cells attach to bile acids and transmit a long-term energy source to our brain and entire body.

Foods with high amounts of fat take longer to digest, resulting in your blood sugar progressively spiking at a slower pace.


Sugar and starches

Sugar and starch start off as different molecules, our bodies break them down before they can absorb them to use as an energy source. After our body breaks them down the end result for both molecules is sugar.

As the sugar we process enters our blood stream for energy and travels to every part of our body, our pancreas goes to work to produce insulin. Insulin is what naturally lowers are blood sugar in order to keep a healthy balance. High blood sugar causes damage to blood vessels, nerves, organs and vision. High blood sugar is a leading cause of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and diabetes.

For more information about the magic of fibre check out Fibre Fundamentals.

Fibre is the other part of a carbohydrate. Our bodies don’t absorb fibre for bodily functions, but rather use fibre as a bodily function.

There’s two different types of fibre and they both help us out through the digestive process.

Soluble Fibre

When trying to understand soluble fibre, think about chia seeds.When it’s exposed to water in our intestines, it swells up like a chia seed and forms a gel.This gel maximizes the health benefits of food by slowing down nutrient absorption.

Insoluble Fibre

Insoluble fibre benefits the digestive process by helping digested food move through the intestines proficiently.

How Diabetes Affects Us

Diabetes is a disease that impairs the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin.

Insulin is used to process and manage the sugar in our bodies. Our bodies cannot function properly without it.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Food hangover (feeling groggy, tired and uneasy after a meal)
  • Physical and mental anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Rage blackouts
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Tingling in the hands and feet


Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both caused by issues with insulin.

Insulin Insensitivity

Insulin insensitivity happens when your cells become less or non-reactive to insulin.This makes your body less effective at processing sugars, resulting in high blood sugar, resulting in diabetes.

How it works

If your body has to produce and process an excessive amount of insulin to make up for excessive sugar intake, the cells eventually become desensitized to insulin’s effect on them, resulting in high blood sugar. When your body becomes desensitized, it needs more insulin than your pancreas can produce.

Exhausted pancreas

If your diet demands a large amount of insulin to break down the sugars, eventually your pancreas will get tired.

How it works

When your pancreas gets tired, it lowers or stops its ability to produce insulin. Which results in high blood sugar leading to diabetes. This issue is typically what type 2 diabetics experience.

Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is more likely to stem from one’s diet and habits. Enough exercise, a healthy diet and managing stress levels are important factors when it comes to protecting yourself against it.

The reason why people get Type 1 diabetes is not clear but scientist, believe it stems from genetic and environmental factors such as viruses that trigger the effect.

Affects OF Diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetics have a 40% greater chance of developing clinical depression.
  • Food hangover.
  • Blindness.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Coma.
  • Limb amputation.
  • Physical and mental anxiety.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Rage blackouts.

Awareness and Advocacy

It’s important to note that although type 2 is affiliated with lifestyle choices, many people who suffer from it don’t have access to healthy food or activities, resulting in a lower quality of physical and mental health. We as a community must stop stigmatizing type 2 diabetics for being at fault for having a chronic disease. Advocating for justice when it comes to access and education of proper nutrition and physical activities is what will make the biggest impact.

Managing Diabetes


Managing diabetes is expensive. It can be extremely difficult for a large number of individuals and families living in Vancouver to maintain on a constant basis.

Vancouver General Hospital has youth programs aimed to educate youth around insulin maintenance.

The cost of managing diabetes on a daily basis is not the same for everyone. How much insulin needed and how many times one needs to test their blood sugar differs from person to person.

PharmCare supplies free insulin for BC citizens if they’re covered by the following programs

When it comes to the testing and monitoring process, resources are more limited. Pharmcare supplies needles and test strips and insulin pumps for the following plans.

There is no coverage available for nutritional food or physical activities.

 Impact On the Eastside After School Program.

Youth greatly appreciate having a more in-depth understanding of the disease and how to support their community.

Donate here to help grow our Nutrition Education and resources.

Donate here to help support youth with diabetes.

Your contribution creates a difference in their lives.

Exposing Sugary Drinks

Revealing Sugar

Good Food for All reveals how to de code sugar in nutrition labels, gain a better understanding of how sugar affects your body, and discover which sugars are most and least beneficial to you.  Prepare to be shocked by the amount of sugar that goes into drinks you probably didn’t think twice about.

Elizabeth Fisher demonstrating sugar quantities in favourite drinks at the Eastside Afterschool Program.

Finding Sugar on Nutrition Labels


The amount of sugar is always listed in grams represented by the letter g. Sugar is listed under Total Carbohydrates.

It’s important to account for the grams of sugar in relation to the indicated serving size. Consider that often drinks have more then 1 serving per bottle. In this example there is 65 grams of sugar per bottle (20 oz) – that’s more than double your  recommended daily recommended intake for added sugar!

The recommended daily amount of added sugar is 25 to 37 grams per day which includes everything you eat or drink. 


There are different types of sugar, nutrition labels use a variety of language to identify them. In this label it’s sucrose, glucose and high fructose corn syrup. Familiarizing yourself with this language will make understanding nutrition labels easier.

There are 51 different types of sugars and sugar combinations that all result in the sweet taste we love. The trick is understanding which are the most beneficial to our bodies and which are the least. The main difference is if a sugar is primarily natural like fruit, or primarily processed like white sugar.

Negative Effects of Processed Sugar

There are many natural sugars, the most common include: Fructose, Glucose and Lactose 

  • Efficient way to naturally preserve food
  • Natural sugars in moderation boost brain health and help maintain energy levels
  • Delicious

Positive Effects of Natural Sugar

There are many natural sugars, the most common include: Fructose, Glucose and Lactose 

  • Efficient way to naturally preserve food
  • Natural sugars in moderation boost brain health and help maintain energy levels
  • Delicious

Understanding Sugar

The Sugar Effect

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that is absorbed into the blood stream, and blood carries it out to every muscle to be used for energy. Our bodies need sugar to function properly. However, if we eat more sugar then we need our body will store the excess for later use.

Sugar Highs (and Lows)

When sugar goes into the blood stream sugar levels spike, which spikes energy levels. This is known as a sugar high.

The issue with a sugar high is energy levels spike almost as fast as they plummet. An average sugar high will last from 30 minutes to an hour. Following the peak of a sugar high is a fast energy decline.

This graph represents a person’s blood sugar after eating a Snickers Bar. When blood sugar is its peak, so are one’s energy levels. Notice how the peak of the blood sugar levels is 10 minutes after ingesting the Snickers Bar and quickly drops after the peak.

Sugar in Drinks


Coconut water


Orange juice

Greene smoothie


Eastside Afterschool Program’s youth

Youth were shocked to find out how many grams of sugar they were drinking every day.

Good Food educates youth on nutrition and empowers them to make their own healthy decisions.

Help empower youth to foster a healthy society.

Donate to help fund our nutrition education programs.

Stay Tuned!

 Upcoming post: recipe for low and natural sugar juice and pop alternative.

Game Time: Fast Meals to Full Meals

60% of youth in the Eastside Afterschool Program have to make or buy dinner for themselves every day. Our latest nutrition education session taught youth how to go from fast meals to full meals by taking food pantry staple items and making them healthier, whole and balanced.

Good Food creates a fun atmosphere and incorporates cognitive learning experiences into our nutrition education sessions. We created a game to help the youth start thinking about how to turn basic cost effective staples into healthier options.

The Need for Food Skills Classes at Eastside

 25% of youth don’t eat dinner every night.

40% of youth’s parents prepare dinner for them regularly, while 40% cook dinner for themselves. 

31% have ingredients supplied at home for them to make dinner, while 40% feel they spend too much of their own money eating out because of the options available at home.

40% say they have experience cooking with their parents, while 20% say they have to cook for their siblings.

40% say they’re confident in there cooking skills, while 50% are interested in developing their cooking skills and eating habits.

33% state they have started working on there own meal prep routine, mainly their school lunches.

How to Play Fast Meals to Full Meals


Come up with the most unique and tasty recipe using food pantry staples and additional ingredients!


3 to 4 pantry staples foods:

  • Mac and cheese
  • Ramen
  • Spaghetti sauce and noodles
  • Rice

6+ added ingredients:

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Tofu dogs
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Vermicelli noodles


  1. Write down all food items onto individual flash cards (one item per card).
  2. Create a display using all items.


  1. Divide the group into pairs, each pair gets one set of flash cards containing all items.
  2. Each pair must collectively choose and combine flashcards to transform into a recipe. Each pair has 3-5 minutes to complete the challenge.
  3. Each pair will share their recipe combination with the class and vote for their favourite combination.
  4. You’re not allowed to vote for your own recipe.

Good Food for All’s Winner 

The recipe that won our round of Fast Meals to Full Meals was:

  • Spaghetti sauce and rice pasta
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion
  • Broccoli
  • Tofu

Good Food Fighting Food Insecurity

Good Food for All targets short term food insecurity by providing healthy snacks to youth in our programs. Through nutrition education we target long term food insecurity by empowering and educating youth to develop healthy skills and habits lasting a lifetime. 

Donate to impact youth’s quality of life by funding our nutrition education programs. 


Gracie joins Good Food!

Grace Bell  joined the Good food for All team as Food Security and Nutrition Education Program Assistant in June 2018 after graduating high school.






I’ve been part of the  Eastside Afterschool Program community for the past 3 and a half years, witnessing Good Food grow from the time they partnered with East Side Boxing Club in 2015. The collaborative efforts from both organizations has greatly impacted my life by providing opportunities, support, resources and inspiration.

I plan to pursue a career that incorporates all the passions closest to my heart: holistic medicine and nutrition, education and advocacy, mental wellness, writing and business.

Gracie at East Side Boxing Club leading nutrition education sessions. 

Through the Peer Leadership program, Good Food for All has given me a platform to transform my passions into skill sets all while helping to grow my community. Elizabeth Fisher, founder and Executive Director of Good Food for All mentors me every step of the way and continuous to congratulate me on my efforts and challenges me to improve my skills.

The opportunity of becoming part of the Peer Leadership Program as well as becoming a Peer Coach, has helped me develop the confidence to take on leadership roles in all aspects of my life.



Donor Profile: Heat Laliberte

Good Food for All is thankful to have wonderful donors like Heat Laliberte and the team at Fairmont Pacific Rim supporting our mission to increase access, interest, and knowledge of healthy food for East Vancouver youth.

Heat is a chef at Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver and is launching his own venture, One Arrow Artisan Bacon, (yes please!) later this spring.

Heat and his co-workers at Fairmont Pacific Rim organized a food drive and collected enough food to stock the Punch ‘n’ Munch food pantry for a full month. Read on to find out why Heat donated and what he hopes his donation will accomplish.

Name: Heat Laliberte

Occupation: Chef/Owner One Arrow Artisan Bacon & cook at Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel

Favourite (healthy) food: Chia seeds

Real favourite food: Bacon!

Do you have a special message to share?

I grew up in a single parent and low-income household. We relied on the food bank and Christmas hampers more than I can count. At the time I was ashamed and embarrassed about it but once you grow up, have a career, become self-aware you can give back. It’s paying it forward in a sense. For the lucky people that haven’t had the struggles you can motivate others to give back!

What motivated you to donate to Good Food and the Punch ‘n’ Munch Program?

I attended a beginner class with a regular and struck up a conversation with Leigh Carter at the Eastside Boxing Club desk. She gave me a tour of the gym and showed me where the kids have their safe space to come to. I noticed their dry goods/non perishables supplies were low and thought I should start a food drive. The culinary team at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel were super receptive and many people donated food and cash donations to purchase food.

What do you hope your donation will achieve?

I hope it inspires other to donate healthy food to the Punch ‘n’ Munch Program. I hope it brings awareness to the youth in the DTES that are making proactive choices. They could choose the latter. If you can get youth to experience the rewards of hard work, commitment and healthy choices it really sets them up for success in adulthood.

A huge thank you to Heat and his co-workers for supporting Good Food for All!

Make a Donation


Meet the Board

We are pleased to introduce Good Food for All’s Board of Directors.  Our international team has expertise in the public and private sectors and ample passion for social issues.  Read on to meet the Board…

Elizabeth Profile Picture
Elizabeth Fisher, Executive Director

Elizabeth Fisher was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. For the past 10 years, she has traveled the world working in the nonprofit sector.  During this time, Elizabeth earned her BA in International Development from McGill University in Montreal and her MPA in Nonprofit Management from New York University in New York. She has worked with vulnerable and marginalized populations in Kenya, Rwanda, Cambodia, and New York in the areas of economic development and education.  Upon her return to Vancouver, Elizabeth opted to focus her efforts on more local needs and founded Good Food for All in 2015. She looks forward to using her skills and experience to tackle food insecurity and inequality in Vancouver.

Laura Bennegadi, Chair of the Board
Laura Bennegadi, Chair of the Board

Laura Bennegadi was born and raised in Paris, France where she graduated valedictorian of an M.S. in International Strategic Management at the Sorbonne University. Laura decided to use her business background to contribute to the success of artistic and cultural endeavors. She has worked in the New York theater industry as an associate producer on three Off-Broadway shows and has worked as a marketing coordinator for US tours of live shows. Laura has also experience in development as she worked on fundraising campaigns, such as the American Friends of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation’s campaign which led to 30M Euros donations by 18 individuals. She is currently the Associate Director of the T.Fellowship program, in association with Columbia University School of the Arts. Laura is the CEO and Founder of ArtBound Initiative, an international arts internship program which connects interns with professional artists, galleries, and arts organizations in New York and in Berlin. www.artboundinitiative.com

Rachel Tennenbaum, Secretary
Rachel Tennenbaum, Secretary

Rachel Tennenbaum is an experienced communications professional, California native, and NYC resident. She currently works at the education nonprofit Teach For America, where she develops knowledge management strategies to facilitate communications between TFA’s national development team and its 53 regional offices. She joined TFA as a communications associate, and previously served as a communications manager with HealthCorps, a teen-health nonprofit founded by Dr. Oz. Rachel has a BA in Writing from UC Santa Cruz and an MA in International Relations and Media from NYU. A committed social justice advocate, Rachel nurses an interest in sustainability and alternative economic models. Given some down time, she can be found doing yoga, taking exploratory walks around the city, and reading. She is so happy to be part of Good Food for All’s work.

Greening Good Food Initiative

biodegradable paper plates

We at Good Food for All love our mother earth and are committed to environmentally sustainable business practices at all stages.  From buying and serving local and organic food to utilizing sustainably sourced office supplies, we actively try to reduce our environmental footprint wherever possible.

That’s why we’re excited to announce the launch of our Greening Good Food Initiative, which will reduce the environmental footprint of the Healthy Snacks for Active Youth program. The Greening Good Food Initiative will reduce environmental impact by switching from plastic food service items to eco-friendly, compostable, non-toxic, and/or sustainable material food service disposables. The initiative will substitute plastic cutlery and cups for wooden or compostable. It will also substitute toxic dyed plates, bowls, and napkins made from raw materials for non-toxic made from recycled materials that are easily composted and/or recycled after use.

Get in on the green: DONATE 

Good Food for All would like to extend a special thank you to Vancity Credit Union for their generous donation to the Greening Good Food Initiative.  Vancity makes incredible investments in our community- if you aren’t banking with a credit union, you’re doing it wrong.