, TX — The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston has been chosen as one of two sites nationwide to pilot a Food is Medicine Program aimed at improving the quality of life for Veterans living with or at risk of diet-related health conditions.
This week the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and The Rockefeller Foundation announced the two pilot sites in a new partnership to expand Food is Medicine programs, from medically tailored meals to produce prescription programs, at key VA health care facilities across the country.
VA and The Rockefeller Foundation will support a produce prescription program called Fresh Connect at VA health care systems in Houston and Salt Lake City. Veteran participants will receive $100 per month for fresh produce and receive nutrition education and ongoing coaching from VA registered dietitian nutritionists.
“We know good food is the foundation of good health, and study after study has found Food is Medicine interventions make people healthier even as they cut health care costs,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “I am proud the Foundation will be collaborating with the VA to help make American Veterans’ lives healthier and more food secure. This program will also help to accelerate our understanding and use of these programs as an integral part of health care delivery to the benefit of millions of other Americans.”
Houston VA is one of the largest VA medical centers in the nation, providing care to more than 131,000 Veterans in southeast Texas. Nationally, about 27% of Afghanistan and Iraq war Veterans experience food insecurity — a rate more than double that of the general U.S. population. Studies have found that Veterans, particularly those with food insecurity, are also at greater risk for diet-related diseases. One study reported 86% were overweight or obese at their first visit to a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) clinician, while another showed the prevalence of diabetes is at least 5% higher among U.S. Veterans than the general population. Expanding Food is Medicine programs at VA will address the impact of diet-related disease and food insecurity among Veterans, while evaluating their impact for building the case to embed these programs into a fully integrated health care delivery system.
“At VA, we know comprehensive and innovative nutrition programs like Food is Medicine help Veterans maintain healthy lives and achieve food security,” said Amanda Slover, a registered dietician and assistant chief of nutrition and food service at the Houston VA. “Food is foundational for a healthy life, and it takes all of us — working together — to improve outcomes and nutrition for Veterans.”
Houston VA has been working hard to meet the needs of the food insecure Veterans. Over the past few years, in collaboration with Combined Arms and county food banks in Galveston and Montgomery, the VA has supported two monthly Veteran-specific mobile food pantries at the Texas City and Conroe VA Outpatient Clinics.
“We are committed to going above and beyond to care for our Veterans,” said Dr. Quindola Crowley, chief of social work at the Houston VA. “Helping Veterans create healthy habits through programs like Fresh Connect is a powerful way for us to address our Veterans’ whole health.”