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OPINION

We can’t let vets go hungry during COVID-19 crisis

By WILLIAM J. “DOC” SCHMITZ | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: June 5, 2020

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Americans are feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in different ways, and for veterans, the concerns about food insecurity — which is defined as the lack of access to enough nutritionally adequate foods to live an active and healthy life — are all too real.

Now that the demand for food bank support has escalated due to this pandemic, the 18.8 million veterans living in the United States face increased hardship as they struggle to put food on the table. Consider that more than 9 million veterans are over age 65, many of whom have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of complications or mortality from COVID-19, and you can feel the weight of the hardship our senior service members face.

Veterans are at greater risk of mental health issues as a result of experiences they endure during service. Coupled with the fact that food insecurity is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes, including poorer control of diabetes, hypertension, depression and other major psychiatric disorders, these collective issues can result in a devastating impact on those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Since food insecurity has increased dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Humana, and offices within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — including the Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships, Voluntary Service Office and Homeless Programs Office — are mobilizing donors and volunteers for the “Uniting to Combat Hunger” campaign in an effort to help food insecure veterans and their families through this pandemic. By donating directly to VA medical centers across the country, we are able to take a targeted approach to assist our nation’s service men and women and ensure donations go directly to those who need it, whether it’s providing food, gift cards to local grocery stores or even basic supplies to help them during this difficult time.

While our efforts have helped to provide more than 200,000 meals thus far, we invite citizens and organizations to join us in this mission by visiting vfw.org/UTCH and making a monetary donation to a VA medical center near you. Every donation will go a long way to help veterans in need.

Now more than ever, it’s important we don’t take anything for granted — including access to food. Veterans have sacrificed so much to protect our country, and they shouldn’t have to fight against hunger as well. Now is the time for us to do our part to assist these service men and women and ensure they can put food on the table for themselves and their families.

William J. “Doc” Schmitz is commander-in-chief of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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