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VA Food Drive Helps Feed Homeless Veterans

Woman pushing grocery basket

Suzanne Yost, registered dietitian, wheels out basket of food donated by VA employees for homeless Veterans.
Photo: Luke Thompson, Salisbury Medical Media Coordinator

Women standing in front of truck full of food

Anna Hudson, Kathy Crotts, Maeghan Iddings, Suzanne Yost (Nutrition and Food Services Staff) and Nate Valentine (Rowan Helping Ministries).
Photo: Luke Thompson, Salisbury Medical Media Coordinator

Dozens of homeless Veterans in central North Carolina received an extra meal or two (or three or four) thanks to a team of enthusiastic and dedicated members of the Nutrition and Food Services Department at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center…along with the very generous employees of the Hefner Medical Center.

Over 1400 pounds of non-perishable food was collected and distributed to local charities which provide assistance to homeless Vets.

Collection boxes were located throughout the Salisbury, N.C., VA Medical Center and associated outpatient facilities.

“It makes me happy to know we are providing meals for those Veterans who need it most.”

— Anna Hudson, Clinical Dietetic Technician

In the Charlotte clinic, 81 pounds of food were collected and donated to Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry. The Winston-Salem clinic raised 268 pounds, which were donated to the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission. The Hickory clinic collected 134 pounds of food, which were graciously donated to Eastern Catawba County Cooperative Ministry.

Salisbury exceeded last year’s collection as employees contributed 982 pounds of food that were donated to Rowan Helping Ministries.

Anna Hudson, Clinical Dietetic Technician, noted that she sees a lot of homeless Veterans and the food drive is a great opportunity for other Vets and VA employees to step up and help out. “It makes me happy to know that we are providing nutritional meals for those Veterans who need it most.”

David Phillips, Chief, Nutrition and Food Services, added that the community is aware of VA’s efforts to assist area Veterans. “At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, business leaders involved with local charities told me what a great job VA was doing to help our Vets. I think it also inspires them to want to help.”

This is the fifth year for the medical center’s food drive. And food is something they do well. In the last customer satisfaction survey from Veteran patients, the Hefner medical center earned a 4.09 with 5.0 being the best. “And that was up from 3.7…we are very proud of that,” Phillips said.

About 70 percent of the donated food was canned food. One interesting contribution was an entire week’s worth of food from the Jenny Craig program. While the staff was grateful for the expensive donation, they were also concerned that the generous donor may have missed a week of their new eating regimen.

Almost all of the members of the nutrition staff have relatives who are Veterans, a personal motivation for everyone. According to Maeghan Iddings, Clinical Dietetic Technician, “The food drive provides an opportunity for VA employees and volunteers to give back to the community and our Veterans. Our Veterans have sacrificed their lives and I think it is important to give back in any way.

“The food drive allows us to provide support to our homeless Veterans by donating food to the local homeless shelters that our Veterans depend on.”

Phillips added that the food drive shows that, “Our VA employees here have a strong desire to participate in helping Vets. It proves that they are truly concerned about other people and their problems.”