There is no greater mission than to serve those that have served our great nation. The Southern Arizona VA Patriot Pantry, in Tucson, is a good example. Nutrition and Food Services partnered with the Center for Development & Civic to tackle the issue of Veterans’ food insecurity.

Over a year ago, the Patriot Pantry got its start from one of our registered dietitians who had a simple idea after an encounter with a Veteran experiencing food insecurity.

Female Tucson VA employee at cabinet filled with food

Program assists in resolving long-term food insecurity issues

Our registered dietitians came together to fill a need for Veteran patients that screened positive for food insecurity. They created the Patriot Pantry, which provides emergency food provisions and approximately three days of meals. It also serves as a bridge to other community food resources for Veteran patients.

“This program helps ensures Veterans get something to eat and connects them with other programs to assist in resolving long-term food insecurity issues,” said Dietitian Catherine Juengel.

Served over 156 Tucson Veteran patients experiencing food insecurity

According to Dietitian Kristen Ellis, all Veterans who come to the medical center are screened for food insecurity. The dietitians use the data from the food insecurity screening to determine which Veteran patients need an emergency food supply.

“If a Veteran is screened positive for food insecurity, they get a consult for social work, and the social workers refer the Veteran to a dietitian to determine if they need an immediate food supply or if they are lacking resources,” said Ellis. “We can try to connect them to our community resources that can help mitigate some issues such as transportation or jobs.”

If a Veteran is determined to be food insecure and has an immediate need to use the Patriot Pantry, dietitians bring the food directly to the Veteran, either at discharge or at the completion of an outpatient appointment.

“We want to make sure the Veteran has the means to store, prepare and cook the food provided. We make sure the bag of food provided is easy to hold and carry for the Veteran during transportation,” said Juengel.

Support from community partners

The dietitians also work with Veterans who may have any dietary issues or other needs to ensure they are getting the right kinds of food from the Patriot Pantry.

The Patriot Pantry would not exist without the support and kindness of our community partners and donors. “We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all those who have supported and continue to support the Veteran Patriot Pantry,” said Ellis.

“This program helps ensures Veterans get something to eat and connects them with other programs to assist in resolving long-term food insecurity issues,” said Juengel.

By Luke Johnson

Public affairs officer, Southern Arizona VA

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Published on Nov. 18, 2022

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