Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island
PVAMC Garden to Serve Homeles & At-risk Veterans
The Providence VA Medical Center and its Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team (H-PACT) will break ground on a new community garden. The garden will be tended to by Veterans and volunteers and will supply homeless, at-risk, and low-income Veterans with home-grown, fresh vegetables and fruit.
Originally founded in Providence, the H-PACT care model now serves over 16,000 Veterans across 57 VAs nationally. The H-PACT program provides integrated and complementary homeless program support and primary care services all housed under one roof with walk-in, “no appointment needed” hours. H-PACT’s mission is to identify the highest-risk, highest-need homeless Veterans who are unable to get the care they need through traditional channels.
The idea for the community garden came from a nationwide initiative focusing on identifying and addressing the issue of food insecurity among Veterans in H-PACTs. Formerly-homeless Veterans who are now in their own homes are particularly at risk for not having enough food, especially towards the end of the month when benefits like SNAP have been exhausted.
“Food insecurity is a serious and significant issue affecting many Veterans who do not have enough to eat,” said VA National H-PACT Director and Acting Director of the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans Thomas O’Toole, MD. “The consequences of not having stable good sources are potentially life-threatening for those patients with diabetes or other serious medical issues.”
The community garden will allow Veterans in Providence to augment their diets with fresh fruits and vegetables and will aim to bridge the gap for those Veterans short on food with nutritious options. Additionally, Providence VA clinical dieticians will be teaching food preparation and nutrition classes once a week in the H-PACT clinic.
“H-PACT team members Jeff Figueira (Advanced Medical Support Assistant) and Kevin Price, RN (H-PACT Nurse Manager) really advanced this initiative,” said Providence H-PACT Medical Director Emily LeVeen, MD. “They saw the need for a healthy food program and recognized the therapeutic benefits of gardening. These committed VA employees – who are themselves Veterans – are always coming up with creative ways to assist our neediest patients.”
Embodying the spirit of the H-PACT mission, the community garden project has been a truly collaborative effort bringing together VA staff across the Medical Center, as well as community partners. Donations of supplies, seeds, and fruit trees were provided by Lowe’s of Cranston, RI, Redwood Nursery of Swansea, MA, Level Acre Farms of Attleboro, RI, Caroline and Jordan Barletta, Veterans Inc. Manafort Brothers, Inc., and the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, RI.
For more details about VA’s H-PACT initiative, see: http://www.va.gov/homeless/h_pact.asp