Feeding America®, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, is announcing a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that will help men and women who have served this country. The goal of the new Veterans Pantry Pilot (VPP) program is to provide food assistance to veterans onsite at VA Medical Centers.
The harsh reality is that many men and women who have served our nation now face hunger. In fact, 20 percent of the households supported by Feeding America have a member who is a veteran or has served in the U.S. military.
“It is disheartening to know that one in five households that come to us for help has a member who has served our country,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America. “Military families face unique challenges, but we must ensure that putting food on the table is not one of them. Together with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, we are honored to launch the Veterans Pantry Pilot and look forward to adding more sites throughout the country.”
The Feeding America network of 200 food banks provides food assistance to every county in the U.S. Through VPP, local food banks will partner with VA Medical Centers to establish onsite pantries, if space allows, or coordinate mobile pantry distributions.
Feeding America has been coordinating with the VA since 2016 to develop and advance the VPP. To formalize these collaborative efforts and cultivate future partnership opportunities, a national-level Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was executed in January 2017 between Feeding America and VA.
To build capacity and ensure success of the VPP program, Feeding America and the VA host joint meetings with all VPP participants to support local partnerships and gather key learnings. Additionally, individualized technical assistance has been provided for VPP sites, upon request.
VPP was modeled after the success of the Greater Chicago Food Depository pantries at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital.
“In every community across our nation, there are veterans who face the injustice of hunger,” said Kate Maehr, Executive Director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “Since 2013, the Food Depository has been proud to reach thousands of veterans in need, thanks to amazing partnerships with the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. We are hopeful to see similar programs grow across the United States, so every veteran has the food they need for health and opportunity.”
Currently, ten VPP sites are active, with additional pantries going live by the end of the year.
Columbia, SC (Harvest Hope Food Bank, William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center) is one of the VPP sites.
“Mountaineer Food Bank is honored to partner with the VA Medical Centers to be able to serve the food needs of veterans of West Virginia,” said Chad Morrison, Executive Director of Mountaineer Food Bank. “Our veterans have served their country well and are a great source of pride to all West Virginians. It is our responsibility to ensure that all veterans have sufficient access to food that meets their nutritional needs. Our partnership with the VA Medical Center has been remarkably smooth and effective. We are excited to continue and expand this partnership into new levels throughout West Virginia.”
Since the start of the pilot, more than 3,000 veteran households and 5,700 individuals have been served through the VPP. VPP sites have distributed more than 151,453 pounds of food. Several of the sites include SNAP Application Assistance programs and other wraparound service provisions and/or referrals.
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the Unites States. Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, we provide meals to more than 46 million people each year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find them on Facebook or follow on Twitter.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs runs programs benefiting veterans and members of their families. It offers education opportunities and rehabilitation services and provides compensation payments for disabilities or death, related to military service, home loan guaranties, pensions, burials, and health care, which includes the services of nursing homes, clinics and medical centers.
Caption: Megan Rast, a Family Readiness Support Assistant from the SC National Guard, picks up food for a military family in need.