The success of two local VA food pantries provided a model for a nationwide pilot program

Four years ago, the Food Depository launched one of the nation’s first food pantries for veterans at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. The success of that partnership led to opening a food pantry at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in 2014. In fiscal year 2017, our work with local VA facilities became the model for a nationwide partnership between Feeding America network food banks and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“After we opened the Hines VA food pantry, food banks from across the country were asking us how we did it and if we could help them replicate our model with their local VA,” said Emily Daniels, Food Depository manager of veterans programs. “That’s when we introduced Feeding America and the VA.”

The Food Depository worked with Feeding America to create the framework of the veterans food pantry pilot program by providing insight and support to the national organization while also assisting individual food banks who were joining the pilot in their effort to start VA pantries.

The partnership between Feeding America and the VA was formalized in January 2017 and the VA pilot program launched in late June. There are currently 10 veterans pantry pilots operating nationwide, with more expected in the coming months.

“This is a vulnerable population,” Daniels said. “I’m glad we were able to help craft a model that’s going to support veterans in need not just in Cook County, but across the country.”

Meanwhile, the VA pantries at Jesse Brown VA and Hines VA – which the national model is based on – have continued to see high need. In fiscal year 2017, the pantries combined to serve 13,491 veteran households.