New partnership will expand Food is Medicine programs to help address food insecurity, diet-related diseases among veterans
WASHINGTON | April 24, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Rockefeller Foundation have announced a new partnership to expand Food is Medicine programs, from personalized meals to manufacturing prescription programs, at leading VA health care facilities across the country.
VA and The Rockefeller Foundation will support two Produce Prescription pilots and associated research pilot programs at VA health care systems in Salt Lake City, Utah and Houston, Texas, with the goal of improving the quality of life for veterans living in or at risk of food-related health conditions. Pilot programs in the Produce Prescription program will provide eligible veterans with the opportunity to enroll in the Fresh Connect program to receive $100 per month in fresh produce and receive nutritional education and ongoing coaching from VA registered dietitian nutritionists.
“We know that good food is the foundation of good health, and study after study has found that Food is Medicine interventions make people healthier even as they reduce health care costs,” he said. Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “I am proud that the Foundation will partner with the VA to help make the lives of American veterans healthier and more food-safe. This program will also help accelerate our understanding and use of these programs as an integral part of health care that benefits millions of other Americans.
VA is the largest integrated health care system in the United States providing care in more than 1,200 health care facilities for more than nine million veterans. Unfortunately, about 27 percent of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans experience food insecurity, a rate more than double that of the general US population. Studies have found that veterans, especially those who are food insecure, are also at higher risk for diet-related illnesses. One study reported that 86 percent were overweight or obese at their first visit to a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) physician, while another showed that the prevalence of diabetes is at least 5 percent higher among U.S. veterans than to the general population. Expanding Food is Medicine programs at VA will address the impact of food-related illness and food insecurity among veterans while assessing their impact to build the case for embedding these programs into a fully comprehensive health care system integrated.
“At VA, we know that innovative, comprehensive nutrition programs like Food is Medicine help veterans maintain healthy lives and achieve food security,” he said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Food is critical to healthy living and it takes all of us working together to improve outcomes and nutrition for veterans. We appreciate the Rockefeller Foundation for partnering with us to make healthy food more accessible to Virginia veterans.”
Food is Medicine programs are widely recognized as powerful interventions, yet they reach only a fraction of those who could benefit from them. The partnership will focus on expanding the implementation and evaluation of Food is Medicine programs throughout the VA health system, and Rockefeller Foundation support will provide grants to organizations such as About Fresh, a non-profit organization based in Boston, which will help enroll veterans in pilot prescribing product programs at VHA facilities in Salt Lake City, Utah and Houston, Texas. Designed in collaboration with VA physicians, staff and the VA Office of Food Security, these projects will build on the pioneering work conducted by Reinvestment Partners to increase veteran enrollment in their EatWell program with the VA facility in Durham, in North Carolina.
Researchers at the University of Utah will evaluate the projects’ impact on health, health care costs and utilization, and participant satisfaction. The lessons and data gathered through these pilots will help inform the development of higher-impact policies and programs to broaden the reach of Food is Medicine as a benefit to veterans across the VA health care system.
This partnership builds momentum and progress toward the second pillar of the Biden-Harris administration’s National Hunger, Nutrition and Health Strategy to integrate nutrition and health by investing in health-related societal needs and is the latest example of the Rockefeller Foundation’s commitment to promote Food is Medicine programs. Last fall, the Foundation and the American Heart Association, with inaugural partner Kroger, announced a plan to mobilize $250 million to build a national food is medicine research initiative, and in November 2022, the Foundation committed $4.6 million in grants for community and equitable initiatives. directed Food is Medicine approaches to prevent, manage and treat food-related diseases in the nation.
About the Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology and innovation that enable individuals, families and communities to thrive. We work to promote the well-being of humanity and make opportunities universal and sustainable. Our goal is to increase renewable energy for all, stimulate economic mobility and ensure equitable access to health care and nutritious food. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at rockefellerfoundation.org and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.
About the Veterans Health Administration
The VA Veterans Health Administration is America’s largest integrated health care system, serving 1,298 health care facilities, including 171 medical centers and 1,113 outpatient centers of varying complexity (VHA outpatient clinics), serving 9 million enrolled veterans annually .
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