Hunger knows no boundaries — it touches every community in Westchester County, including our military families. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, 50 million people may face hunger in the U.S. during 2020, and our military families are no exception.It is unacceptable that anyone goes hungry, but it’s particularly troubling that millions of Americans who’ve protected and served our country are left without enough to eat.
Veterans like Duke Searles, a Vietnam War veteran, now a volunteer at the VA Hospital Supportive Housing Food Pantry in Montrose, NY, are no stranger to food pantries. Living on just $700 a month, Searles sought assistance from the pantry at the VA Hospital while battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. Fortunately, he overcame these obstacles and began volunteering as a driver for the pantry. Now, Searles helps veterans like him as the pantry’s volunteer supervisor.
“It's something I've loved every minute of,” said Searles.
An increasing number of food banks across the country, including Feeding Westchester, report a growing number of active duty military families coming to food pantries located near military bases for the first time. This startling fact has increased due to COVID-19.
A recent survey of military households found that 7% reported experiencing trouble getting enough food during the preceding year. This translates to more than 90,000 soldiers who have put their life on the line for our country struggling to feed their families.
What is contributing to military hunger? Here are a few of the top causes:
- Low salaries for enlisted
- High rates of unemployment for military spouses due to the transitory nature of the military
- High cost of living near many military bases across the country
- High costs of childcare
- SNAP eligibility is treated differently for service members who live off base
Infographic courtesy of Feeding America
How You Can Help
Feeding Westchester continues to respond to the greatest need and demand it has ever seen for food and we will remain at the forefront of hunger relief in our community. Ensuring adequate access to nutritious food is imperative to ensuring the long-term health of service members and improving military readiness.
A donation to Feeding Westchester helps support our food-program partners, some of which provide much-needed nutrition to local veterans, like the VA Hospital Supportive Housing Food Pantry.
“There's no reason for veterans to be hungry — ever,” said Searles. “With the help of Feeding Westchester, I'm able to serve those who have served us proudly.”
Duke Searles, Vietnam War veteran, VA Hospital Supportive Housing Food Pantry Volunteer Supervisor
Feeding Westchester is advocating with members of the Feeding America Network in the creation of a Military Families Basic Needs Allowance, to provide monthly support to service members whose incomes are below 130% of the federal poverty level.
Veteran’s Day is intended to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for this country —let’s honor them by building a path to a brighter, food-secure future. To find ways to show your support go to FeedingWestchester.org.
Together we are Feeding Westchester.