New partnership will expand Food is Medicine programs to help tackle food insecurity, diet-related diseases among Veterans
WASHINGTON | April 24, 2023 ― The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and The Rockefeller Foundation announced a new partnership to expand Food is Medicine programs, from medically tailored meals to produce prescription programs, at key VA health care facilities across the country.
VA and The Rockefeller Foundation will support two Produce Prescription pilot projects 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 with or at-risk of diet-related health conditions. The Produce Prescription program pilots will provide eligible Veterans the opportunity to enroll in the Fresh Connect program to receive $100 per month for fresh produce and receive nutrition education and ongoing coaching from VA registered dietitian nutritionists.
“We know good food is the foundation of good health, and study after study has found Food is Medicine interventions make people healthier even as they cut health care costs,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “I am proud the Foundation will be collaborating with the VA to help make American Veterans’ lives healthier and more food secure. This program will also help to accelerate our understanding and use of these programs as an integral part of health care delivery to the benefit of millions of other Americans.”
VA is the largest integrated health care system in the United States providing care at more than 1,200 health care facilities to over nine million Veterans. Unfortunately, about 27% of Afghanistan and Iraq war Veterans experience food insecurity — a rate more than double that of the general U.S. population. Studies have found that Veterans, particularly those with food insecurity, are also at greater risk for diet-related diseases. One study reported 86% were overweight or obese at their first visit to a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) clinician, while another showed the prevalence of diabetes is at least 5% higher among U.S. Veterans than the general population. Expanding Food is Medicine programs at VA will address the impact of diet-related disease and food insecurity among Veterans, while evaluating their impact for building the case to embed these programs into a fully integrated health care delivery system.
“At VA, we know comprehensive and innovative nutrition programs like Food is Medicine help Veterans maintain healthy lives and achieve food security,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Food is foundational for a healthy life, and it takes all of us — working together — to improve outcomes and nutrition for Veterans. We appreciate The Rockefeller Foundation for partnering with us in making healthy food more accessible to Veterans at VA.”
Food is Medicine programs are widely recognized as powerful interventions, but they only reach a fraction of those who could benefit. The partnership will focus on expanding the implementation and evaluation of Food is Medicine programs throughout VA’s health care system, and support from The Rockefeller Foundation will provide grants to organizations such as About Fresh, a Boston-based non-profit, that will help enroll Veterans in produce prescription pilot programs at VHA facilities in Salt Lake City, Utah and Houston, Texas. Designed in collaboration with VA clinicians, staff and the VA’s Office of Food Security, these projects will build upon the groundbreaking work led by Reinvestment Partners to increase Veteran enrollment in their EatWell program with the VA facility in Durham, North Carolina.
Researchers at the University of Utah will evaluate the projects’ impacts on health, health care costs and utilization and participant satisfaction. Lessons and data garnered through these pilot projects will help to inform the development of more impactful policies and program design to scale the reach of Food is Medicine as a benefit for Veterans across the VA health care system.
This partnership builds momentum and progress toward the second pillar of the Biden-Harris administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health to integrate nutrition and health by investing in health-related social needs, and is the most recent example of The Rockefeller Foundation’s commitment to advancing 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 equitable and community-directed Food is Medicine approaches to prevent, manage, and treat diet-related illnesses 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 flourish. We work to promote the well-being of humanity and make opportunity universal and sustainable. Our focus is on scaling renewable energy for all, stimulating economic mobility, and ensuring 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’s Veterans Health Administration is America’s largest integrated health care system, providing care at 1,298 health care facilities, including 171 medical centers and 1,113 outpatient sites of care of varying complexity (VHA outpatient clinics), serving 9 million enrolled Veterans each year.
The Rockefeller Foundation