Expanding Healthy Eating Opportunities for Veterans in Western New York
Healthy Food, Healthy Lives
March 15, 2023
Nearly one in ten New Yorkers is food insecure, and food insecurity jeopardizes health.
Veterans are twice as likely to be food insecure compared with the non-veteran population, with even higher rates among sub-groups like women and those with serious mental illness. More than half of eligible veterans are not enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and many of those who are enrolled still struggle to afford healthy foods. Recognizing the connection between food and health, health care systems are increasingly screening for food insecurity and implementing Food Is Medicine interventions. Food Is Medicine usually takes the form of prepared meals or food boxes that are medically tailored to an individual patient, often with a food “prescription” written by a health care provider. In 2023, NYHealth awarded Buffalo Go Green (BGG) a grant to expand a partnership between health care and community-based organizations to provide a suite of Food Is Medicine services to 1,500 food-insecure veterans in Western New York.
Under this grant, BGG will continue working with the Community Health Center of Buffalo to expand its signature fruit and vegetable prescription program, FVRx. BGG will coordinate with its partners to screen veterans and provide Food Is Medicine and enrollment services to at least 750 food-insecure veterans per year. A registered dietitian and social worker will work with each veteran to identify services to best meet their individual needs, such as one-on-one nutrition counseling; fresh food box deliveries; and enrollment in SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, and the Farmers Market Nutrition Program. BGG will also work with the Buffalo Veterans Health Administration (VA) to integrate program services at VA sites and provide technical assistance to operationalize screenings and referrals throughout the program. In addition, BGG and the health center will partner with the University of Buffalo to evaluate the expanded program by assessing food-insecure veterans’ needs and experiences. The evaluation team will track the suite of services used by each veteran and use that data to tailor the program design. BGG will develop a financial sustainability plan that will enable the health center to bill insurance for counseling services.