A Veteran named “Shannon” spoke recently about the the difficulties she encounters at her local corner store. She doesn’t have transportation to get to a grocery store or produce market. She’s in her late 20s and also has diabetes.

“I can get banana flavored-pudding, but I can’t get bananas,” she said.

Shannon has been hospitalized five times in past three months. She often did not have enough money for food or a place to reliably refrigerate her insulin. Shannon didn’t have a reliable place to refrigerate her insulin because she lacked stable housing, in part because she couldn’t get regular work. She couldn’t get regular work because she kept ending up in the hospital.

“Many Veterans like Shannon struggle with this cycle, but we have resources within VA to help,” says Dr. Alicia Cohen, VA primary care provider.

Food insecurity means you have problems accessing adequate nutrition due to financial issues, transportation or other problems.

Talking about access to nutritious food should be part of your health care.

Working to address the problem

VA’s Nutrition and Food Services (NFS) and the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) are working together to address Veterans’ hunger and food insecurity. They:

  • Screen Veterans for food insecurity during medical visits.
  • Train staff on resources and counseling for Veterans with food insecurity.
  • Educate clients on new SNAP eligibility and benefits.

VA and USDA know that it can be difficult to talk about this problem or how you’re struggling. VA wants to make it as easy as possible for Veterans and staff to open a conversation about it. Nutrition is fundamental to health and talking about access to nutrition should be part of your health care.

Pam Miller, FNS administrator, adds “Veterans are America’s heroes, and they deserve our fullest support. The USDA FNS team collaborates closely with VA to help combat food insecurity among Veterans. They also provide them with the skills or work experience they need for employment opportunities.”

Teams deliver access to food for Veterans

USDA FNS is the program that administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as “Food Stamps”). VHA NFS is the program that provides clinical nutrition care to Veterans enrolled in VA. Together, these offices work with a national VA multi-disciplinary team and leverage organizational partnerships to screen, refer and deliver direct access to food for Veterans.

To date, staff have screened over six million Veterans. Those who screen positive for food insecurity are offered referrals to VA clinicians for information. In approximately 50 VA medical centers, there is direct access for Veterans via VA food pantries through organizational partnerships, such as Feeding America.

This takes a village and the VHA has established agreements with Feeding America and MAZON a Jewish Response to Hunger.  The national Ensuring Veterans Food Security Workgroup connects these groups to facilitate communication and resources.

Programs for rural Veterans

“Malnutrition is not just a problem for older or homeless Veterans. It can happen to any Veteran or family member at any time,” said Dr. Lynda Davis, VA’s Chief Veterans Experience Officer. “If this is a challenge for you or a Veteran you know, let us reach you with resources. Let us be of service to you and support others who have served.”

Additionally, the VA Office of Rural Health (ORH) implements a diverse range of programs that help improve the health and well-being of rural Veterans by increasing their access to care and services. These national programs research, innovate and disseminate new innovations to support the 2.7 million rural Veterans who are enrolled in and rely on VA’s health care system.















1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) and 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) or text 97779

Anne Utech, PhD, RDN, LD, is the national director of Nutrition and Food Services.

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Published on Aug. 3, 2020

Estimated reading time is 3.7 min.

Views to date: 918


  1. Disgruntled Veteran August 6, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Hahahaha “it takes a village”. Alrighty Mrs Clinton I’ll happily tell you about my finances so you can, so graciously, consider providing for me. Oh you made it easier for the disabled to qualify? As long as you can manage to be totally disabled with enough family members or provable medical expenses to meet requirements. Enjoy your new government paperwork job detailing your entire life. The government would like to trade food for slavery…. trust us with your details.

  2. Deborah Ketcham August 6, 2020 at 5:36 am

    Many veterans don’t know anything about the snap program, the clinics need to get the information out via mail or newsletter, especially for older people who might not have access to a computer.

  3. Jeffery Patesel August 6, 2020 at 1:04 am

    The snap program here in Montgomery County, Ohio
    is really fouled up. I applied and sent in all documents asked for. I sent by fax and got confirmation that it was recieved . A few days later I
    got another letter from a different case worker asking for the same documents! This also was for Medicaid . The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. I was so angry that I said the heck with it .

  4. Atheena Schwers August 5, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    I just called and wished a dear family member happy 86th birthday yesterday. Unable to see him of course to Covid; we now know he is limited to (No) transportation, medical attention, and general everyday things most of us take for granted. He does walk and bike ride to get most of his meager budgeted food needs at the local Knick Shop. Usually he manages a garden and goes to the farmers market. This spring was tough and he was unable to plant a good one. He lives in a community that does their best to look out for one another. But they all are multi-generational folks. Which means that the infection has spread rapidly amping them. As we all know, life as we know it has changed drastically. This having some of the largest effects on low income, homeless, and out elderly. Many being Veterans.
    He has always been appreciative of all the services available, and it is nice to see there are additional programs out there for those going through additional struggles in these hard times.
    Please pass these links on and share where you can.

  5. Steven Bookless August 5, 2020 at 10:18 pm

    How can we veterans help…

  6. Richard LaRouche August 5, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    100% disabled vets do not qualify for snap..over income

  7. steve martell August 5, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    How do i apply for food assistance? I served 8 years in the USMC and have several , disabilities ADHD, BIPOLAR DISORDER , OCD and I work part time where I barely make it month to month. Any help would be appreciated. Thank You so much

  8. Michael S Withrow August 5, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    My self, I’m diabetic and 100% p&t, due to this my state (North Carolina), will not approve me for Food Stamps, because they say I make to much money. My VA Disability is my only source of income. So, what are those of us in this situation supposed to do??

  9. Albert w Christopher August 5, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    My wife and I have a new house payment and a car payment plus auto,home and life insurance. We live off my as I and va diability. This leaves us less than 100 dollars for food for the rest of the month. They say due to my income I do not qualify for SNAP benefits. I am 73 years old with insulin dependent type two diabetes. Can some waive the rules and help me het some held with food. This is our biggest need. thank you.

  10. Sean Taylor August 5, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Not to mention, most dont have access to the internet….. more waiting, more starving, more dying. JOKE.

  11. Paula Minger August 3, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    So many Elder Veterans suffer this through our fault of their own. Often it’s no money at the end of the month, no transportation, or too ill to do any type of shopping

    • Stephen Rial August 5, 2020 at 10:23 pm

      Yup, very true in my case on all accounts and VA is no help whatsoever. I’ve had more problems with the stupid CAVHS in Little Rock and North Little Rock. They are more damn worried about their mask mandate and far more paranoid about catching some virus than I am. The pandemic is long over and the Democrats don’t even want us to have another stimulus check so we can buy food! So sick of the whole mess this country is in and to think I fought in Nam for our damn freedom too!!!

    • Gary W.Rhodes August 5, 2020 at 10:43 pm

      I am a six year Army veteran I have not had any help from the VA or anything I do the best I can I live just as cheap as I can but I’m making it I can do it thank you anyway

    • Billy owens August 6, 2020 at 9:32 am

      VA Dietitian tips are great. I was looking for this type of information.
      Thank You.

    • Bob Ash August 6, 2020 at 2:51 pm

      Well said, we spent our lives raising our family trying to keep a roof over our heads, and a car on the road.
      (gas & insur) Balance our: (“House Hold” Budgets)
      food ?
      I Can’t Afford That….
      What has happened ?

Comments are closed.

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