Morally Degraded... Hungry Veterans Line Up At Food Banks...

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:53pm.

They call them the "New Poor," or the "Newly Poor." Feeling like ducks out of water, they enter the food pantry with heads down and shoulders hunched. After all, they have never asked for help before. Embarrassed at their plight, they quickly move up and down the aisles of the food bank, before people they know can spot them.

These "nouveau poor" come from all segments of society. Bankers, landscapers, and real estate professionals are among those who line up for food assistance. In the food banks, those who are still lucky enough to have jobs stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who have been laid off, filling their carts with pasta, baby food, and cereal.

Particularly hard hit are the veterans, fresh back from Iraq or Afghanistan. Already stressed by their repeated deployments and often too proud to request assistance, many hungry veterans only reach out for help when they feel desperate.

According to Magali Bouchard, Director of the Veteran's Association of Bristol County in Fall River, Massachusetts, this year the demand for food assistance is the "worst ever." Open for business since 1987, the food bank services about 137 veterans per month, including the working poor and those on a fixed income.

The food pantry assists veterans ranging anywhere from twenty to eighty-something years old, and Bouchard reports that about one-third of the veterans coming in for help are elderly or disabled. Bouchard said, "A veteran is a veteran. We have World War II veterans coming in here, as well as veterans from later wars. We help them all. " Widows of veterans are given assistance as well.

Last year, Bouchard's food pantry ran out of food altogether, and was in danger of being shut down. Because of generous donations from the local community, they are doing a "bit better" this year, which is good news for the needy veterans of Fall River.

The Northwest Montana Veterans Stand Down and Food Pantry cofounder, Linda Erickson, reports 176 individuals, all veterans or their dependents, were assisted at the food pantry in January 2009. The largest age group served at the food bank is typically comprised of veterans from 18-55 years old.

Because of SNAP (the new name for the federal Food Stamp Program), the food pantry will remain stocked until June 2009. Erickson said, "Without that federal program, we would have run out of food for our veterans by now."

Erickson stated that 40% of the veterans served at her food bank were homeless, mostly due to divorce or the death of a spouse. And, unfortunately, a new group of homeless veterans has sprouted: women and children.

"Due to the high cost of medical care, more women veterans are homeless than ever," said Erickson. "I was very surprised at the large number of women who have had to move in with family members because they couldn't afford to pay for their medical care."

Erickson added, "Most homeless veterans are not homeless because of a lifestyle choice, but due to difficult circumstances."

So why are veterans so financially needy? "It's the same as in the general public, said Erickson. "It's the lack of jobs and lack of industries. Some of our veterans have health concerns that prevent them from doing the same job they had been doing, so they need retraining."

Overall, food banks across the country are seeing larger numbers of people requesting services. A survey conducted by Feeding America reported a 30% increase in food bank traffic for 2008. The food banks they surveyed cited the rising cost of food and higher unemployment as the main factors for the greater food demand last year. And so far in 2009, the urgent need for free food is not slowing down.

Many veterans who have risked their lives to serve the United States are lining up at food pantries all across the land of the free, home of the brave. There is no economic immunity for heroes. Although, as military veterans, they might have been asked to endure unimaginable horrors on the battlefield, they must wait in line for the barest necessities at home.

Kathy Sanborn - February 24, 2009 - source RepublicBroadcasting

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:53pm.