Kean University – “Chat and Chew” Program for Female Veterans

The “VETS CHAT AND CHEW” project, has a unique mission, namely, to improve the lives of women veterans.  It will feature new forms of networking intervention and social support specially designed for women veterans.  Three six week sessions with eight to twelve female veterans participating in each will take place in the Trauma Counseling Program at Kean University.

Through these sessions, the “Vets Chat & Chew” project will create a nurturing community for these women veterans.  More than 20% of the 230,000 women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With women now being trained for combat, this percentage will only increase. These women need help. Our project will help them improve their social skills, expand their interests, and learn about the myriad support services available to them through the Veterans Administration. That is of importance given the stressors that contribute to PTSD in women military veterans are :

  • Combat operations that have left them terrified long after they arrive home
  • Military Sexual Trauma (MST) that derives from unwanted sexual attention and that is reported to occur with one in five women in the military
  • Feeling alone and bereft when deployed to new units. Building friendships takes time. 
  • Worrying about family and feeling the impact of being separated from their young children or elderly parents for long periods of time. Some female veterans find it difficult to return to their old family roles, thus causing conflicts with spouses, children and/or parents

Such stressors make it difficult for returning women vets to enter civilian life.  The traumatic experiences they underwent often lead to eating disorders, substance abuse, and domestic violence. The impact upon their ability to procure stable housing and employment is obvious.

“Vets Chat & Chew” will help women veterans reduce such high risk behavior through shared activities that enhance their confidence and promote socialization.  The practice of “commensality,” or fellowship at the table, helps foster a sense of community. Food also plays an important role in fostering health and mental well-being. Sharing a meal creates positive associations and reduces stress and anxiety. Each week our female vets will prepare and share a meal. Stress reduction information and socialization skills will be woven into the meal sharing activities.  Each week will have a specific theme: Trust, Safety, Control, Responsibility, Reconnection and Self-empowerment. Each theme will contribute to:

  • Teaching healthy cooking and good nutrition habits
  • Reducing the effects of PTSD by lowering stress levels
  • Increasing socialization skills
  • Trusting the VA administration and learning about available services and benefits.

“Vets Chat & Chew” will create a nurturing community of women veterans through new forms of networking intervention and social support especially designed for them. According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor Women’s Bureau, many women veterans convey a strong desire for programs and resources geared specifically to women veterans.  Teaching these women new skills and giving them new interests can only better their psychological condition and help them cope with civilian life in a more positive way. 

For further information, please contact Anne Burns, 201-592-1130,, Kean University