VHA Partnership With MAZON Will Support Veteran Food Security

September 18, 2020

Click here to read the article as published by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has formalized its partnership with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths in the United States and Israel, to assist Veterans struggling with food insecurity.

According to 2018 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 1 out of every 10 households did not know where their next meal was coming from. A 2015 study published from researchers at the University of Minnesota show that Veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are almost twice as likely to be lacking reliable access to enough food for a healthy lifestyle compared to the general population.

“Too many service members and Veterans find themselves struggling to put food on the table,” said Mr. Josh Protas, vice president of public policy at MAZON. “Veterans should not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”

VHA and MAZON have a shared goal to improve the health and well-being of Veterans, and this partnership benefits Veterans in many ways. In addition to amplifying existing VHA resources created to promote food security, such as nutrition tips for Veterans without a home and food delivery services, VHA and MAZON will collaborate by:

  • Educating Veterans about the resources and benefits available to them;
  • Creating strategies/policies to reduce the number Veterans who may be at risk of food insecurity; and
  • Reaching food-insecure Veterans who may not be receiving VHA care.

“Our research has shown that there is a certain stigma among Veterans at risk of food insecurity. We also know that Veterans can be unaware of these resources,” said Mr. Protas. “Our hope is to dispel some of those misconceptions and to inform Veterans about the programs and benefits available to them, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).”

The coronavirus pandemic has presented new challenges to many Veterans and their families. In response, MAZON has compiled a 50-state Hunger Resource Guide for individuals in need of assistance. The resource guide includes links to helpful resources available to Veterans, their caregivers, and their families. MAZON has also created a training course on Veteran food insecurity that’s hosted on the PsychArmor Institute website. VA has a list of resources on its website about what Veterans need to know during these unprecedented times. VA can connect Veterans to programs such as SNAP, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and emergency food sites, such as food banks and pantries.

“Partnerships like the one between VHA and MAZON are critical in caring for Veterans who may be food insecure or are at risk of becoming food insecure,” said Dr. Tracy Weistreich, nurse executive for VHA’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE). “Public-private partnerships like this are great examples of how VA can reach Veterans who may not be receiving VHA care while also educating Veterans about the important resources available to them.”

OCE facilitated the development of the partnership between VHA and MAZON for the VHA Office of Nutrition and Food Services. OCE serves as a trusted resource and a catalyst for the growth of effective partnerships at the national, state, and community level. OCE also serves as an access point for public and private entities interested in partnership with VHA to benefit Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.

To learn more about MAZON, visit www.mazon.org.

To learn more about how OCE builds effective partnerships across VHA to support Veterans or inquire about starting a partnership, visit: www.va.gov/healthpartnerships.