10 Nov Highlighting Military Hunger this Veterans Day
By Susan King, Feeding Northeast Florida President and CEO
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This Veterans Day, Feeding Northeast Florida (FNEFL) wants to acknowledge the courageous men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect and serve. We cannot allow this Veterans Day to pass, however, without recognizing the food insecurity that many veterans and active military are facing in our country today. Of the 40 million people the Feeding America network serves, 20 percent of those households include veterans or active military personnel. Considering the sacrifices they have made, this is unacceptable.
The Greater Jacksonville USO reports approximately 7,500 of our active-duty military living on the First Coast are food insecure to some degree. Across the country, this number is as high as seven percent of active-duty service members (more than 125,000 individuals). Nine percent have reported seeking food assistance through a food bank or other organization during the previous year.
Several factors lead to military food insecurity, including low salaries for young enlisted members, high rates of unemployment for military spouses, the transitory nature of the military, high cost of living near many military bases, and the high cost of childcare.
We as a community have an obligation to guarantee veterans and active-duty military who have sacrificed for our freedom have food on their tables. FNEFL is committed to this, spearheading programs like our Veteran Meal Boxes and providing to local military support organizations. Of our 300 partner agencies, over 160 directly assisted in feeding Northeast Florida’s local military, enabling us to deliver more than 3 million meals to veterans and active-duty military families in 2020.
In addition, FNEFL partnered with United Way of Northeast Florida, DoorDash, and the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs in 2020 to provide food to homebound veterans and local veteran families in need. As a result of this partnership, 12,000 meal boxes have been delivered, including a variety of shelf-stable goods, fresh produce, dairy, and proteins.
While the entire Feeding Florida food bank network works to ensure military personnel don’t have to worry about where their next meal comes from, we are only one resource. To do your part in solving military hunger, speak up to your members of Congress and encourage them to take action so veterans and their families don’t go hungry In addition, you can ask them to support the creation of a Military Family Basic Needs Allowance in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. This Policy would provide service members, whose income falls below 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, with a monthly stipend.
This Veterans Day let’s celebrate the men and women who have served on behalf of our nation and guarantee they never have to fight to find food for themselves or their families.