VA’s Nutrition and Food Services (NFS) has teamed up with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Together, they will perform outreach, distribute information to Veterans and increase awareness about the risks associated with food insecurity.
Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to enough food to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It effects one in nine people in the U.S. Of those, 27% are female Veterans and 6% are male Veterans. The cornerstone of VA’s NFS’ mission is performing outreach to segments of our community that are under-reported in hunger awareness. It also provides comprehensive nutritional services for our Veterans and their families across VHA’s health care facilities.
MAZON is an American nonprofit. It works to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the U.S. and Israel. It also ensures elected officials and policymakers understand and consider the needs of the millions of American men, women and children who struggle with hunger.
The number of food insecure Veterans is also high among those who served in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
SNAP program helps over a million Veterans
The VA-MAZON partnership will combine efforts with policymakers to protect and strengthen federal nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps 1.3 million low-income Veterans.
“Veterans must have consistent and reliable access to healthy foods in order to thrive,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
“By raising awareness of the problem of Veterans’ food insecurity, this partnership will lead to more Veterans having more food on the table.”
The partnership will further enhance VA’s outreach and overall mission to improve food insecurity by modifying the agency’s strategic plan. Priorities include more access to care, available food assistance and new resources. Those resources include training VA staff to better recognize and respond to food insecurity.
“VA’s partnership with MAZON will increase outreach to Veterans in and out of the VA system. It also will improve access to services and resources that will support their food security,” said Megan Bowman. Bowman is the assistant chief of NFS for the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
“We are excited to be partnering with an organization who cares about Veteran health and well-being as much as we do.”
Many Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans have food insecurity
Food insecurity tends to be higher in households relying on social assistance, single-parent homes, ethnic minorities and people who are homeless or house insecure. The number of food insecure Veterans is high among those who served in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These Veterans are almost twice as likely to be food insecure than the general population.
One “bad month” can be enough to plunge a household into food insecurity. Lay-offs at work, unexpected car maintenance or an accident on the job can suddenly force a family to choose between buying food and paying bills.
Working families across America face countless situations that can result in food insecurity and hunger. That’s why many working families depend on the Feeding America network of food banks to help make ends meet. This includes thousands of households who don’t qualify for federal nutrition assistance.
The VA and MAZON partnership works to transform VA in its advanced clinical nutrition practices, data driven quality improvement and healthy teaching kitchen programs to improve Veterans and their family members’ health outcomes.
Megan Jones is a communications specialist with Patient Care Services.