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Vets Shop for Healthy Food at Palo Alto Farmer’s Market

two health care workers pick out cherries at a farmers market

 

Market Grows in Popularity with Vets Looking for Healthy Alternatives

A bustling farmer’s market has become an important part of campus life at the VA Palo Alto, Calif. Health Care System.

The popular market helps Veterans and employees at the VA medical center to find fresh, healthy foods, provides a social gathering place in the sun, allows inpatients to get out for a stroll with their families, and much more.

It’s an idea that is spreading.

The Palo Alto team helped the San Francisco VA Medical Center start their farmer’s market which opened in May and is also a huge success.

According to Dr. Wendy Thanassi, chief of Occupational Health, the farmer’s market was created to provide Veterans and employees with healthy food options and an education on the benefits of locally grown and organic foods to promote healthy eating choices.

Dr. Thanassi noted that there was a large increase in the number of Veterans and employees who tried foods they had never tasted or cooked before. “More than 60 percent of our employees now say they are eating and buying more fresh foods as a result of the farmer’s market.”

A survey of over 600 employees showed that 85 percent reported increased job satisfaction due to having the farmer’s market on campus.

Dr. Thanassi loves telling other VA locations how the Palo Alto project works and has presented the details of her farmer’s market at two national conferences. She adds, “We are happy to help other VA Medical Centers that might be interested in exploring their options.”

“The farmer’s market was created to provide Veterans and employees with healthy food options.”

— Dr. Wendy Thanassi, Director of Occupational Health

The market is held every week from April to November, right in front of the main entrance.

Vets and employees are serenaded each week while shopping by the VAPA Arts musicians (a musical group made up of VA employees) and local groups. A recent Wednesday featured the music of the Rattlesnake Ridge Band.

The organizer is the Pacific Coast Farmer’s Market Association, which selects the vendors from all over California and does all of the set-up and clean-up. The Association also assisted with the start up of the San Francisco market. And there was a hearty round of applause for Canteen Services Chief Terrell Sorter who was instrumental in making it happen.

The booths feature disabled Veteran gardeners, goat cheese makers, homemade pies, orchids, organic fruits and vegetables, bread products, and homemade olive oils. Food stamps are accepted, and their value is doubled when purchasing fruits and vegetables.

One vendor who offers bolani (stuffed flatbread) is an Afghani woman who came to America alone at age 19.

Dr. Thanassi adds, “I like having the family from Afghanistan here interacting with our OEF/OIF Veterans and I love her strength in coming to America and becoming a very successful entrepreneur.”

Find additional information such as recipes and nutritional advice on the market’s website.