October 02, 2017

Statement: MAZON Applauds VA Action to Address Veteran Food Insecurity

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Contact: Michelle Stuffmann
Phone: (424) 208-7203
Email: mstuffmann@mazon.org



LOS ANGELES, CA (October 2, 2017)—Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, applauds the recent effort by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs decision to implement food insecurity screenings for veterans: 

“Today marks an important step forward in the effort to understand and address food insecurity among veterans. As a result of MAZON’s urging, for the first time, care team members at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities will be required to screen for food insecurity among veterans coming for care. By asking this simple question—“In the past three months, did you ever run out of food and you were not able to access more food or have the money to buy more food?”—the VA will for the first time be able to identify veterans who struggle with food insecurity throughout the system and empower care team members to take immediate action to assist those veterans who need help putting food on the table.

“Our nation’s veterans have made innumerable sacrifices to keep us safe from harm. They have earned our support, and we honor them in doing so. Sadly, too many veterans in our country struggle without access to the assistance they need and deserve. A recent report by the Center for American Progress reveals that 3.9 million veterans – more than 1 in 5 – live paycheck to paycheck at 200 percent of or less than the federal poverty level.

“MAZON has spent months working with the VA and USDA to undertake this straightforward but vital step to begin to address this disgraceful situation.  The VA’s launch of the new food insecurity clinical reminder is a threshold step that will make a significant difference in the lives of veterans like Joe Gaston from Bozeman, MT:

“Even though the VA knew about our financial problems and my medical needs, no one ever mentioned any other options for assistance like SNAP or WIC. We didn’t know they even existed… Eating better has really changed my life… I want people who are going through financial difficulties to know that there is hope, that the resources are out there now, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We greatly appreciate the leadership provided by Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin, and the VA’s Ensuring Veteran Food Security Workgroup, the creation of which was was the result of MAZON’s efforts in raising this issue repeatedly with Washington policymakers. We hope that this new screening question is the first of a series of actions the VA takes to ensure that those who make great sacrifices for our country have enough food to eat.

“Still, much more needs to be done. We look forward to working with VA leadership to establish an effective follow-up protocol for veterans determined to be food insecure, including referrals to and application assistance for the Supplmental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other federal nutrition assistance programs. We also call on the VA to establish ways to respond to the problem of food insecurity for the millions of veterans who do not receive care through the VA system. MAZON will continue working with partners to create educational and training resources to better identify and address the unacceptable problem of veterans who go hungry.

“MAZON is proud of our leadership role in bringing together the VA and USDA to implement this change, and our continuing efforts to shine a light on the issue of hunger among our nation’s veterans and advocating for critical changes in the VA system. MAZON has been honored to partner with colleagues at the VA and USDA to foster needed interagency communications and cooperation, offer trainings on veteran food insecurity for the personnel in the VA system, and help advance our shared goal of ending veteran hunger.”

About MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

Founded in 1985, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is a leading national nonprofit advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel. In January 2016, Abby J. Leibman, MAZON’s President and CEO, testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on the challenges of food insecurity for currently serving military families and veterans and opportunities for policy changes to help these populations. For more information, please visit mazon.org.