Aleda E. Lutz VAMC’s Nutrition Food Service Success Story During COVID-19

We have all felt the effects of COVID-19 this past year. At the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw, MI, COVID-19 impacted the way Nutrition and Food Service (NFS) interact with their MOVE! Program Veterans and how they gain access to gardening tips, cooking, great recipes and more. Necessity is indeed the Mother of Invention; so, we replaced our face-to-face delivery of services to offering virtual classes.

The NFS staff lead the garden program at the medical center. The food service workers began prepping the garden around March 2021. Over two dozen types of vegetables and herbs were planted, including expanding the planting into their second garden area. This produce is showcased and seasoned for patients’ palates to enjoy. The array of healthy and colorful plants not only adorn their plates but also give them the nutrients they require. Our cooks and food service workers prepare the year’s bounty every day for our Community Living Center inpatients and ensure each Veteran is provided with plentiful portions.

Other star players on NFS’ team put those self-grown vegetables and herbs to good use while teaching Veteran Video Connect cooking classes! Dietitian, Andrea Hess, leads these amazing videos and channels her inner ‘Julia Child’ to produce easy to prepare culinary delights. These interactive virtual classes give an opportunity for Veterans to be involved while we all continue navigating through these everchanging times. “The Veterans have truly enjoyed the programs and services we offer and are grateful to be able to connect with their fellow Veterans and staff, even if only virtual,” stated Nina Vanpoppelen, Associate Chief of NFS.

Finally, the Saginaw VAMC also has a greenhouse which allows them to plant and harvest vegetables and herbs throughout the entire year. In 2020, over 650 pounds of produce was harvested, an over 50% increase in production from the prior year. They also had cost savings of approximately $1500. NFS anticipates an even greater production this season. “We look forward to this time of year when we can share the healthy harvests our staff prepare with our Veterans, reported Nina Vanpoppelen. We are excited for the time when we can return to face-to-face teaching sessions with our MOVE! Program Veterans again.”