VEAP builds stronger communities – The most commonly misunderstood program area for VEAP is Social Services. While clients come to VEAP most frequently for food support, the new client assessments and emergency financial assessments administered by VEAP’s four licensed social workers uncover the underlying need, which most often goes beyond the need for food. The common denominator of all VEAP clients is income-based, but interestingly the second is housing-related. VEAP client households are spending proportionately more of their income on housing than you and I, leaving little or no money left for other basic needs like food or medication. VEAP social workers guide clients through these complex issues – sometimes providing them with financial assistance - helping people in a strengths-based approach to navigate all systems of support and address their critical needs. Stable individuals and families mean stronger communities.
VEAP cares about the community’s health - With an educational and professional background in public health, I am proud to work for an organization which values the health of its community. In early 2015, VEAP adopted a healthy food policy, which formalizes the organization’s commitment to providing high quality and nutritious food to clients. Why is this important? Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of poor health. Nutrition impacts health. Poverty in its essence decreases access to healthy foods and increases the chances of poor health. For VEAP clients, cost is the biggest barrier to eating healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables. VEAP’s commitment to the health of our clients is demonstrated by the fact that of the 3.5 million pounds of food distributed in 2015, 1.4 million pounds (40%) was fresh fruits and vegetables.
VEAP helps children thrive - Food insecurity can damage children’s health and brain development years before they enter a classroom. By kindergarten, food-insecure children often are cognitively, emotionally and physically behind their food-secure peers. In 2015, VEAP expanded from 4 to 13 our Student Hunger Collaborative partnerships with schools to distribute healthy food packs for students to take home on Fridays from school. There were over 120,000 visits to VEAP food programs including the Food Pantry, Summer Youth Food and Student Hunger Collaborative programs, the latter two providing food support for youth.
VEAP cares about senior accessibility – According to Hennepin County, about 1-in-5 adults age 65 and older do not drive. Based on life expectancy, men will need alternate sources of transportation for about seven years and women for about 10 years after they stop driving. VEAP’s transportation program for low-income seniors focuses on their accessibility to critical needs appointments, such as dialysis, chemotherapy, physical therapy, as well as visiting loved ones in care facilities.
VEAP’s licensed social workers meet with new food clients and conduct an assessment to help the client identify factors precipitating their financial crisis. The social workers then connect clients to VEAP and other community resources with the goal of helping them regain stability. In 2016, 70% of all crisis situations reported by new clients will be minimized and/or prevented one month following the initial intake with a social worker. This early intervention will help decrease future emergency financial calls and help prevent escalating financial crisis.
VEAP places a high priority on having fresh, nutritious foods available in the pantry its other food programs. In 2016, goals for the Food Program include improving the layout and signage in the food pantry to highlight nutritious foods and encourage more healthy food choices by clients. The Food Program is also striving to improve access to services for those with mobility barriers including increasing food deliveries to home bound seniors and providing rides home from the pantry for those without transportation.
VEAP has recently purchased ClientTrack to replace its outdated database. ClientTrack is an intuitive, secure, web-based client management system that easily captures needed client, service and outcome data. This tool will support VEAP’s goal to have a holistic view of who we serve, what we provide, and the impact on the community. The ability to measure outcomes will also provide staff with data to help improve programs to better meet client needs.
Community or Constituency Served
Since 1973, Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP) has provided a range of basic needs and social services to help low-income individuals and families in suburban Hennepin County meet their immediate needs and attain stability. Eighty-one percent of all households accessing services live on a monthly income of $1,600 or less ($19,200 annually) and 57% have children under the age of 18 living in the home.
Geographic Area Served
VEAP clients are low-income residents of Suburban Hennepin County (Minnesota), which includes the cities of Bloomington, Edina, Richfield, and a portion of south Minneapolis (south of 50th Street and west of Cedar Avenue).