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South Texas VA fights food insecurity with community support

A VA Hunger Awareness Resource event collaborated to fight Veteran food insecurity in South Texas.

This successful event enabled South Texas VA to screen 175 Veterans for food insecurity, hand out 335 bags of produce and non-perishables, and help Veterans complete Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applications.

Fifteen community partners participated, including 2-1-1 Texas, Good Samaritan Veteran Outreach & Transition Center, Soldiers’ Angels, Meals on Wheels South Texas, Meals for Vets, Conviva, San Antonio Food Bank and Catholic Charities.

From 2015-2019, 11.1% of working age Veterans lived in food insecure households. Veterans are also 7.4% more likely to experience food insecurity than non-Veterans, which may contribute to increased rates of depression and suicidal ideation.

Providing expertise, direction and support

The National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP) empowers the community and VA to develop meaningful partnerships for Veterans by providing expertise, direction and support at the national, state and local levels.

Through Veteran Community Partnerships (VCPs), VA partners with community organizations to increase Veteran food security. The initiative helps VA medical centers and local organizations leverage resources to improve the lives of Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

“VCPs bridge gaps and provide Veterans and their families with necessary resources that VA cannot provide,” said Dr. Jamie Davis, health system specialist. “HAP supports the VCP program and the people dedicated to serving Veterans.”

A leading national health concern, food insecurity can result in malnutrition and chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and mental health disorders. Long-term food insecurity often leads to multiple medical conditions and contributes to higher overall death rates.

“The general public is often unaware that many Veterans struggle to provide nutritious food for themselves and their families,” said Amber Miracle, social worker for South Texas VA Whole Health program. “Our goal is to educate and motivate the people of South Texas to join our collaborative effort to provide accessible food for Veterans in our community.”

“We want Veterans to know we are here.”

“Approximately 55,000 South Texas Veterans are food insecure. We focus on providing support for Veterans and their families,” said Cristina Elizondo, facility food security program coordinator. “We want Veterans to know we are here and we’re ready to provide the best, most accessible care for Veterans, caregivers and family members. Veterans have given so much to us and now it’s our time to serve them.” 

VA food security resources

Nutrition and Food Services: VA’s Nutrition and Food Services provides evidence-based nutritional services to Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

Food Security Office: VHA’s National Food Security Office supports Veterans’ and their families’ whole health by ensuring food security through equitable access to nutritious, affordable and culturally appropriate food.

Nutrition Screening Tool: VHA’s self-screening tool helps Veterans learn more about how VA primary care, social work and registered dietitians help Veterans secure nutrition.

Healthy Teaching Kitchen (HTK): An opportunity for Veterans to learn nutritious cooking techniques with their peers.

“We recognize and commend the efforts of those who give time and resources to help Veterans in their communities,” said Chien Chen, HAP chief officer and nurse executive. “Through our partnerships with Feeding America, MAZON and VCPs across the country, HAP is committed to increasing food security and supporting Veterans to receive the soonest and best care possible.”

Get more information about HAP.

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