Veteran Dickie Spirrizzi selects ingredients for a community meal

Residents of the VA Boston Healthcare System spinal cord injury unit have been fixing up some home cooking. Their shared meals are part of a program that develops community, incorporates nutrition education and focuses on creating healthy and wholesome dishes for Veterans living with spinal cord injury.

Veterans on the unit have been preparing their own meals regularly for close to a year. Recently, the program has taken a new direction by incorporating shopping trips. A group of Veterans are bussed to a local supermarket every other Friday morning where they purchase the ingredients needed for that evening’s meal.

“Grocery shopping is the next level we have decided to take with this group to really get them back into the community,” said Jessica Boutin, the VA Boston occupational therapist who created the program. “The goal was to give them an increased quality of life and to really help them function at their maximum potential.”

The Veterans welcome the opportunity to meet new people in an everyday environment. “It was so nice going to the supermarket,” said unit resident Patricia Thomas. “It’s been a long time.”

After shopping, the Veterans prepare the food. The unit dining hall becomes an extension of the kitchen as Veterans, staff and volunteers chop, peel, and mix the ingredients for a meal that feeds the entire group.

“I love the sense of community. It pulls everyone away from the everyday mundane tedium,” said unit resident Larry Berry. “There’s a lot of friendly banter and everyone gets a sense of accomplishment.”

“We’re making a chicken curry,” said resident James Wilcox. “We’re doing a group exercise where everyone pitches in and does what they’re able to do. After we put it all together, we end up with a very nice homemade meal. It’s a nice community activity, it makes a difficult situation a little less difficult.”

Boutin noted that the group “was inspired by people we have here that were chefs, some people that loved cooking prior to being injured. We wanted them to get back to that level of cooking again.”

“I have had an interest in cooking all my life,” said Berry. “The smells of the kitchen, the mayhem, there’s always mayhem when you get a bunch of people cooking, and I like that. I just wish we could do it every day.”

“I like the cooking, and I guess I like the eating too,” said Thomas.

About the author: The story was submitted to VHA’s Office of Digital Media by VA Boston Healthcare System Public Affairs Office

Photo by: Don Veitch, VA Boston Healthcare System Public Affairs

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Published on Jun. 18, 2019

Estimated reading time is 2.2 min.

Views to date: 115


  1. Richard T. Looney Sr July 10, 2019 at 11:21 am

    I have been with the VA health system in Jamaca Plaine for a short period of time and am very impressed with the eye care that I received especially Dr. Gebhardt who I was originally assigned to. The entire Opthalmogy Dept went over and above all expectations

  2. kanika kapoor June 26, 2019 at 7:32 am

    I see it first hand every day and it saddens me to the point of being sick to my stomach.

  3. jessynaija June 24, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    This is a one in all therapy programe. Nice one Blogs va

  4. Musiczmp3 June 20, 2019 at 8:43 am

    I am now getting used to visiting Blogs va. I love this post anyways.

  5. ahad June 19, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    Some time spinal cord injured person not moving their hand and foot is very very dangerous injury.proper therapy and positive will can improve the patient.

  6. Marvin Johnson June 18, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Man what a neat program. I’m sure that is one of the best therapy programs going. My heart goes out to the people and/or volunteers running the program.

  7. Celegacy June 18, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    This is really heart warming. I love this article Blogsva

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