San Francisco VA Health Care System
Little Free Pantry at Eureka VA Clinic
Food insecurity, the lack of access to enough food for a health lifestyle, is an issue that transcends regional and cultural barriers America. In fact, in 2018, approximately 11 percent of US households were food insecure at some point during the year. Not only are our Veterans not immune from such vulnerability, but they are twice as likely to be food insecure compared to the general population. There is little doubt that this global health pandemic has worsened this situation for many, especially those Veterans living up and down the California Coast.
Katie Lansing, a resourceful Medical Support Assistant at the San Francisco VA Health Care System’s Eureka Clinic, encountered this first-hand while assisting a Veteran patient recently. The patient mentioned he only had cat food as a meal option at home. It was not her first time hearing unfortunate stories like this, but she had finally had enough. “This is unacceptable,” she thought.
She immediately began brainstorming for a way to solve this issue in her little corner of the world. That is when the idea of the Little Free Pantry was born. Katie set up the makeshift pantry in the clinic’s physical therapy room and encouraged clinic employees to donate canned goods to this in-house food pantry. She also inquired with the Eureka-based non-profit food bank Food for People to help support their efforts with donations of dry food goods.
To say that she has made a difference is an understatement. Since February, Food for People has been able to deliver 17 boxes of food to the Eureka clinic, 10 of which have already gone to food insecure Veterans in the area. To date, twelve Veterans have received meals from the Little Food Pantry. To Katie, the thought of Veterans and their families being able to have a filling, home-cooked meal, was reason enough to continue this effort. “It is the best feeling ever to help Veterans when I can and where I can,” said Katie. “I’ve experienced the joy of having my son, but the joy of knowing you’ve made a difference in the life of someone less fortunate is just as strong.”
Pat Ragan, Clinic Director for the Eureka VA, applauds Katie’s efforts. “She is incredibly thoughtful and cares deeply about the plight of so many Veterans in our community…we are so lucky to have such an inspiring employee at our clinic.”
Katie hopes cat food will never be the only meal option for a food insecure Veteran visiting the Eureka clinic ever again. With the creation of the Little Free Pantry, hungry Veterans will have a variety of donated food to choose from. In fact, she says, “I’ve never seen more cans of tuna in my life!”
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