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Risk factors for Veteran food insecurity: findings from a National US Department of Veterans Affairs Food Insecurity Screener.

Cohen AJ, Dosa DM, Rudolph JL, Halladay CW, Heisler M, Thomas KS. Risk factors for Veteran food insecurity: findings from a National US Department of Veterans Affairs Food Insecurity Screener. Public Health Nutrition. 2022 Apr 1; 25(4):819-828.

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OBJECTIVE: Food insecurity is associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. The US Veterans Health Administration (VHA) began universal food insecurity screening in 2017. This study examined prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among Veterans screened. DESIGN: Retrospective cross-sectional study using VHA administrative data. Multivariable logistic regression models were estimated to identify sociodemographic and medical characteristics associated with a positive food insecurity screen. SETTING: All US Veterans Administration (VA) medical centres (n 161). PARTICIPANTS: All Veterans were screened for food insecurity since screening initiation (July 2017-December 2018). RESULTS: Of 3 304 702 Veterans screened for food insecurity, 44 298 were positive on their initial screen (1·3 % of men; 2·0 % of women). Food insecurity was associated with identifying as non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic. Veterans who were non-married/partnered, low-income Veterans without VA disability-related compensation and those with housing instability had higher odds of food insecurity, as did Veterans with a BMI < 18·5, diabetes, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Prior military sexual trauma (MST) was associated with food insecurity among both men and women. Women screening positive, however, were eight times more likely than men to have experienced MST (48·9 % v. 5·9 %). CONCLUSIONS: Food insecurity was associated with medical and trauma-related comorbidities as well as unmet social needs including housing instability. Additionally, Veterans of colour and women were at higher risk for food insecurity. Findings can inform development of tailored interventions to address food insecurity such as more frequent screening among high-risk populations, onsite support applying for federal food assistance programs and formal partnerships with community-based resources.

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