VHA Community Partnership Challenge - National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
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VHA Community Partnership Challenge

Community Partnership Spotlight: Food pantry offers relief for Veterans choosing between healthy food and household expenses

This is the fourth in a series of articles about how various VA and VHA offices, initiatives, and programs support social the determinants of health—the theme of the 2020 VHA Community Partnership Challenge. This article features a 2020 submission from the Dayton VA Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio about how a partnership with a nearby food bank addressed food insecurity for local Veterans.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides comprehensive health services to America’s Veterans, and VHA knows it can’t provide every service to every Veteran on its own. Partnerships between VHA and nongovernmental organizations result in more options for Veterans to access important resources.

The VHA Community Partnership Challenge (CPC) is an annual contest that recognizes local and national partnerships serving Veterans. By spreading the word about successful partnerships and encouraging their replication across VHA, the CPC is inspiring more VHA staff members to form partnerships of their own, further expanding the delivery of services.

The theme of the 2020 VHA CPC is the social determinants of health (SDOH). SDOH are conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Examples of SDOH are access to transportation, food security, and employment.

Winners from the 2020 CPC were recently announced, but VHA is highlighting other outstanding partnership submissions from across the country.

Dayton VA Veterans Food Pantry assists Veterans living in “food desert”

The partnership the Dayton Foodbank and the Dayton VA Medical Center ­established the Dayton VA Veterans Food Pantry, which provides Veterans in 27 counties with access to free nutritious food. DVAMC is located within a food desert, which is a location with very limited access to healthy whole foods necessary to maintain a healthy weight. The food provided by the pantry plays a vital role in addressing food insecurity.

Since the partnership’s formation in November 2018, the pantry has served more than 1,400 unique Veteran families and more than 9,000 individuals. Health care providers in the area say that the pantry offers relief to Veterans who may need to sacrifice purchasing healthy foods or enough food in order to pay household expenses such as rent and utilities. A healthier diet then leads to better physical and mental health for the Veteran and their family.

When DVAMC submitted their work for consideration to the CPC, they included a short testimonial about how their work benefits JC, a Veteran that regularly shops from the pantry.

“JC has shared that the pantry helps him in many ways. JC appreciates the fresh vegetables that he is able to take home and how these vegetables allow him to share nutritional snacks and meals with his grandkids when they visit. He also appreciates not having to choose between buying food and paying rent.”

Mr. Ryan Pleasants, chief of voluntary service at the Dayton VA Medical Center added, “JC is just one example of the Veterans who have shared their appreciation for the Veteran Food Pantry. The truth is, we could not do this without the support of the Dayton Food Bank, Dayton VA Leadership, and our many dedicated and hardworking Volunteers and Employees.  The Dayton VA Veterans Food Pantry Team loves serving Veterans, and this is just one way that we can honor them and show our appreciation toward our Veterans.”

The pantry is open on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, and also works with the Dayton VA Home Base Primary Care to provide boxes of non-perishable food to Veterans who are housebound. Their goal is to expand this program in 2020 and reach even more Veterans who are unable to leave their homes.  

VHA’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE) hosts the CPC each year to highlight outstanding work VHA employees do to create community-level partnerships, and to encourage others to create similar partnerships to benefit Veterans. OCE’s mission is to serve as a trusted resource and a catalyst for the growth of effective partnerships at the national, state, and community level and as a facilitator and access point for public and private entities interested in partnering with VHA to benefit Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.

“Partnerships like the one between DAVMC and the Dayton Foodbank are a great example of how the community and local VA medical center collaborate to address Veteran needs,” said Dr. Tracy Weistreich, nurse executive for OCE. “By recognizing these programs, we hope that similar partnerships will form across the country to address a wide variety of SDOH, including access to greater food security.”

For more information on OCE’s work or to contact OCE for partnership opportunities, please visit: https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/.

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Posted September 10, 2020