This Veterans Day: Confronting Veteran Food Insecurity

November 7, 2020

This Veterans Day, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage America, its impact on the millions of military veterans who need assistance to put food on the table has reached crisis proportions. MAZON is confronting this crisis through Congressional advocacy and several joint educational and training initiatives with the Department of Veterans Affairs. With nearly 1.4 million veterans receiving assistance from SNAP (formerly food stamps), MAZON fears that millions more are struggling without help from the country they served.

Air Force veteran Judith speaks to challenges of food security.

“Those who fight for our freedom should never struggle to feed themselves and their families, but that’s sadly not the case. In the wake of COVID-19, alarming numbers of veterans struggling with illness, economic hardship, and mental health issues are still also not receiving the assistance they need to ensure they have enough to eat,” said MAZON’s President and CEO, Abby J. Leibman.

“MAZON will continue working with Members of Congress, the new Biden-Harris Administration, military and veteran service organizations, and our network of local partners around the country to ensure that our leaders act with wisdom, compassion, and urgency in responding to this critically important moment.”

Over the past few months, MAZON has signed a formal agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), cementing its longtime partnership to address food insecurity among America’s veterans. With shared goals of improving the health and well-being of veterans, MAZON and the VA will increase awareness and outreach among veterans about the risks of food insecurity and the resources available to combat it.

Earlier this year, MAZON partnered with the PsychArmor Institute, a national nonprofit organization that provides free education and support to people who work with, live with, or care for veterans, to launch its first training course on “Veteran Food Insecurity: Bringing Solutions to the Table.”

The video course, introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), addresses the scope of food insecurity, the unique challenges for veterans, and the resources available to help them. The 15-minute video course has been distributed to tens of thousands of veterans and veteran service providers around the country.

In January, Josh Protas, MAZON’s Vice President of Public Policy, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on how the VA, USDA, and Congress can tackle the food insecurity crisis.

This testimony paid off when last month a federal judge struck down one of the Department of Agriculture’s many attempts to restrict SNAP for millions of Americans. Most recently, MAZON joined an amicus brief in the lawsuit against the USDA. The arguments in the amicus brief were reflected in the judge’s decision to protect vital assistance for SNAP recipients who are struggling to find and maintain work.

MAZON is also leading a national effort urging Congress to address hunger among currently-serving military families. With food pantries operating on or near every military base in the U.S., MAZON implores Congress to create a “Military Family Basic Needs Allowance” in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

“This Veteran’s Day, it is more important than ever to confront the painful reality that many of those who serve our country are facing hunger. Our elected officials — particularly leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees who are currently negotiating the NDAA — have a window of opportunity to solve part of the problem,” Leibman said.