Veggies for Vets

Michael Welsh and Dr. Isabel Kozak of the Phoenix VA, Jerry Wissink of BHHS Legacy Foundation, Diana Gregory and two active duty veterans who volunteered at the Veggies for Veterans event sponsored by BHHS Legacy Foundation and WellCare.

Diana Gregory has a special place in her heart for the veterans and seniors she has come across over the years. That passion is what sparked the creation of her nonprofit, Diana Gregory Outreach Services, and its offshoot, Veggies for Veterans.

“I’ve been helping seniors and vets since I was eight years old,” Gregory said. “I was playing outside one hot July day when I noticed my 85-year-old neighbor struggling to carry her grocery bags. I instantly leaped to her assistance and helped her carry her food up eight flights of stairs to her apartment, as the elevator was broken.”

From that moment on, Gregory vowed to continue helping seniors and vets. After a 30-year career in corporate marketing and sales, she made good on her promise when she established Diana Gregory Outreach Services and Gregory’s Fresh Market.

The charity’s mission is to “restore meaningful food access and eliminate health disparities in under-resourced communities.”

That mission has served thousands of seniors and vets since 2009. In 2017, Gregory founded Veggies for Veterans – a mobile farmers market that brings fresh fruit and produce to senior centers and the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System. 

“We’d already been serving transitional veterans when we were invited to bring our farmer’s market to Victory Place – a temporary housing community for homeless vets – four years ago,” Gregory said. “Over those four years, we’ve served almost 10,000 veterans.” 

Before the pandemic, Veggies for Veterans visited Victory Place once a month and gave every veteran a $10 voucher to purchase fruits and veggies. 

Gregory explained that offering the vouchers encouraged the veterans to venture out of their comfort zones, leave their apartments, get nutritious food and interact with others. 

“The program is about socialization versus isolation and allows us to teach them about healthy eating,” she said. 

Veggies for Veterans’ successful work at Victory Place led to an invitation to visit the Phoenix VA to duplicate the vouchers. The program serves a minimum of 500 veterans, and last year it pivoted to a delivery system using prepackaged bags of fruits and vegetables.

“Everyone at Victory House and the VA Hospital loves the program,” Gregory said. “To enrich lives through healthy eating is our mission statement, and what a wonderful way to honor vets.”

Gregory said volunteers are the backbone of the organization, and they couldn’t do their valuable work without the support of their sponsors and suppliers. However, since food needs have far exceeded what they can buy and receive in donations, they established a small, local farm in 2019 to grow pesticide-free produce. 

The farm, located at Spaces of Opportunity community gardens in south Phoenix, grows broccoli, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, collard greens, kale, corn and more.