This Veterans Day, I'm reminded of a man I met this summer at a food pantry. I had the opportunity to visit a mobile food pantry sponsored by Feeding America-member Food Bank of the Rockies. It was located in a relatively affluent area a few miles outside of Denver. All kinds of people were there, but one man stood out among the rest. Dressed in full naval officer gear, he quietly slid into line to pick up food. A few minutes later, I walked up to him to ask him to share his story. He was a full-time Navy recruiter, he said. Because of his position, he was hesitant to speak out about much more, but he did say he had four kids and a wife at home, and despite working hard – he didn’t make enough to support them without extra help.
The fact is, hunger doesn’t discriminate. Tough times can strike us all when working, sick, serving, or retired. According to Feeding America’s Hunger in America 2014 study, the use of food assistance is widespread across America. Our organization serves more than 46 million people annually – including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. Additionally, 20 percent of the households Feeding America serves to have a member who has served or is currently serving in the U.S. military.
Veterans like Humberto. Humberto was medically discharged after suffering service-related injuries in the army. Upon leaving the Army, he could not find steady work to support his family. Humberto, his wife, and their three children lived in their car for a year while he looked for work.
Or veterans like Jim, a senior who began his career in the Air Force. Jim was hospitalized for more than a year after his parachute failed to open during a routine skydive. His injuries forced him to leave the Air Force, so as a new career, he opened a mechanic shop. In 2008 when the economy fell, so did his business. Despite working hard his entire life, Jim, a 70-year-old veteran, was left without a single thing to eat. “I was hungry,” he said. “So I swallowed my pride and went to my local food pantry.”
Jim, Humberto, and the Navy recruiter in Colorado are just a handful of the many veterans or active-duty members of the military I have met during my time at Feeding America. They are a handful of Americans who still struggle to get by despite serving our country.
Veterans and military members help us in our nation’s time of need. It’s critical that we help them in theirs. They fought for our freedom. By providing them with food to feed their families, we are fighting for their future.
Learn more about how hunger impacts veterans – and consequently how it impacts our nation – by reading Feeding America’s Hunger in America 2014 summary. Everyone in America should have enough to eat. Help us make this a reality.