The Wilmington VA Medical Center (WVAMC) food pantry opened to Veterans on June 6, 2022. The idea came from a need to serve the Veteran population in Delaware and southern New Jersey who are food insecure or in need for food resources. An interdisciplinary team of dietitians, social workers and members of the center for development and civic engagement (CDCE), came together to plan the logistics of the food pantry and ways to disperse the food to those who need it the most
To receive items from the food pantry, Veterans must be enrolled in VA health care and identified by their social work team or dietitians. These donations are in the form of reusable bags that come with 3-4 days’ worth of nonperishable food based on dietary restrictions or need.
“Dietitians work with the Veterans and take into consideration nutrition needs during the intake process, said Trudy Jumper, clinical nutrition manager “Depending on how the Veterans are referred to the food pantry, dietitians check to see if the Veteran has been connected to social work [or vice versa] and getting all their resources that they need. The end goal is to get the Veteran connected with resources and sustained nutrition, so they don’t need to use the panty anymore.”
Veterans are identified through social work or nutrition and food services can either pick up the bags at WVAMC or the pantry items can be delivered to the closest community-based outpatient clinic. “If necessary, some bags are delivered via social workers directly to where the Veteran calls home. The WVAMC Team is working to meet the Veterans in the community and utilize best resources,” said Jumper.
Each bag contains a flyer that lists all the national services available to Veterans with food insecurity and scheduling information if they need any assistance with the pantry. Resources are also provided for local WVAMC nutrition counseling, MOVE Programs, access to healthy recipes, cookbooks, and other information to promote access to healthy food and educational videos.
The food pantry is for local Veterans of Delaware and southern New Jersey. Last month the WVAMC team delivered 16 bags and according to recent records, additional Veterans have already benefited from the program and growth continues to be projected. The nutrition and food service team are working with the CDCE (formerly Voluntary Service) as a collaborative effort to keep the food pantry well-stocked, but it is running solely on donations. Sustainment of this program is relying on communities, organizations and donations. “We truly appreciate everything that has been donated thus far, seeing the community coming together truly demonstrates support of Veterans in our area,” said Jumper.
The CDCE has worked with Veteran Service Organizations like the Knights of Columbus, Elks Club, American Legion and VFW Auxiliary, to name a few, during the initial kick-off of the food pantry. One concern is sustainability to maintain stocked shelves. “We are supported through donations from the public, Veteran Service Organizations and other various community partners,” said James Coty, Chief of CDCE.
“The best way to donate is to utilize our Amazon wish list, but we also accept monetary donations. Monetary donations can be mailed to WVAMC Attn: CDCE #135, 1601 Kirkwood Highway, Wilmington, DE 19805 with a note in the memo section to designate ‘Food Pantry’ this way 100% of donations are used to purchase items for the program.
We want this to be a long-term service that remains available to our Veterans in need.”
The food pantry has been well received by Veterans in need. “We anticipate an uptick in Veterans using this service with inflation costs rising, some Veterans do not meet the criteria to get the assistance they need and are struggling to get their groceries because they have bills and financial concerns. “We are seeing a lot of people who might not have needed the assistance before. It seems the food pantry was established at a perfect time and our team is eager to help Veterans in need,” said Jumper.
It is very important that the Veteran needs to be enrolled in VA health care and referred by their social worker or dietitian. If you know of a Veteran in need, please call 302-994-2511 x5444. To donate or for food pantry item donation drop off, call 302-994-2511 x 4061.
Wilmington VA Medical Center provides health care services to approximately 35,000 Veterans through its main medical center and five CBOCs in Delaware and southern New Jersey. For more information, please visit Veterans Affairs »