VA Bedford Healthcare System
VARANDA VA Repurposing Agriculture and Nutrition for Diet Awareness
Our Vision: VARANDA (VA Repurposing Agriculture and Nutrition for Diet Awareness) is a preventive health initiative inclusive of a food pantry, sustainable food garden (farm) distributed as food prescriptions for US Veterans and their families. The VARANDA food pantry and farm will provide foodstuff to food insecure and ‘diet unaware’ Veterans. Raw, freshly grown vegetables will come from a farm located at two VA hospitals – Brockton and Bedford. The farm will supply over 5,000 pounds of fresh produce from April to November and will be supplemented by food from the Greater Boston Food Bank for year-round distribution. Farm output will stock the in-hospital preventive health pantry, an on-campus farmers market, and hospital cafeteria. Prescriptions can be written by any provider within the regional VHA through CPRS. Detailed food prescriptions will be tailed towards specific veterans’ needs. The program, if successful, has potential to expand to VA hospitals nationwide. Read about the VARANDA Vision in the news! Download the VARANDA brochure here.
Rationale: Whole Health is rolling out across the VA by promoting 8 pillars of health promotion including nutrition and cultural transformation of systems of care. VA Boston is one of 18 flagship VA sites for Whole Health. ‘Ideal cardiovascular health’ is a concept promoted by the American Heart Association based on seven risk factors (Life’s Simple 7) that people can improve. Diet is a core component. Research has shown that those who can achieve cardiovascular wellness goals by age 50 can expect another 40 years free from heart attack and stroke.
Many chronic diseases have their roots in poor food choices either by necessity or lack of awareness. We will be a healthcare facility with a farmacy! VARANDA could create a roadmap that replicates at other VA sites. Each aspect of planning and implementation will be framed by the idea of scalability to VA medical centers nationwide.
Importantly, Veterans rank this issue highly (Figure 2). When asked what matters to them most, “eating proper foods” topped the list after ‘being with family’ and ‘sleep’ as highest priorities. We have an obligation to meet this need. Not only will we provide fresh produce but a toolkit for integrating proper nutrition into a healthy lifestyle.
Research Opportunities: VARANDA is mission- and outcome-oriented. Given the potential reach to thousands of Veterans in the VISN1 network, participants in the prescription program can be queried pre- and post-participation for changes in diet awareness. Important goals are to change food preference, reduce obesity and improve life satisfaction which could translate into fewer hospitalizations. Other outcomes include reduced medication requirements for treatment of diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension. All outcomes can potentially be tracked longitudinally as part of a research program. The feasibility of a randomized clinical trial of VARANDA versus usual care in high-risk cardiac patients who are ‘diet unaware’ will also be explored.
Want to help? If this project interests you, please email us and we can provide more information on how you can help.
Download the VARANDA brochure.
Contact Information 857-203-6150
Locations to come: Brockton and Bedford campuses
Proposed Hours of Operation: Monday to Thursday from 11am-2pm; Wed 4-6pm
Hours of Operation
Monday, Tues, Thurs 11:00am - 2:00pm
Wednesday 4:00pm - 6:00pm