Open Hand Cooking Matters Partners with VA Health

Open Hand Atlanta is proud to partner with the Atlanta VA Health Care System to support a new program serving nutrition insecure veterans living at or below the federal poverty level.

Having launched our first cohort in May, veterans who are enrolled in our 6-week Cooking Matters classes are empowered with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to make healthy affordable meals on an extremely limited budget. In addition, each veteran receives a box of fresh local produce and healthy recipes after each class and for an additional 4.5 months to give them an opportunity to practice what they learn in class.

Veterans are enrolled in the program based on referrals from their primary care physicians, who screen them for food insecurity, as the majority of veterans in this program live day to day, range in age from 20 to 70, and come from all walks of life. Our goal is to reach no less than 100 veterans through multiple cohorts.

While most of these veterans do not have access to transportation, the grant-funded program enables us to provide them with MARTA cards to help them get to and from class each week. In addition, we’ve been fortunate to partner with St. Vincent de Paul Georgia in Chamblee, who not only plays host to our Cooking Matters classes, but provides all program participants access to their food pantry, pharmacy, and resale shop. In providing this additional support system, program participants are better able to stay engaged with the program, learn important life skills, and put healthy food on the table.

Although this program is still in its infancy, we’re encouraged by the progress made by many of the veterans. Our goal for the program is to reduce food insecurity in this already vulnerable population, and help the Atlanta VA Health Care System improve health outcomes, specifically as they relate to BMI and blood pressure. Ultimately, we hope to empower our participants with practical nutrition knowledge that allows them to take charge of their own health and wellbeing.

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