This Veterans Day, we remember and honor the people that have given their time, skills and, in some cases, lives to defend our country. Unfortunately, after their military service, many veterans face challenges—physical, emotional, and financial—that make it difficult to access healthy food for themselves and their families.
That’s why Second Harvest partners with the VA Medical Center in Spokane to bring healthy food directly to veterans in need through the Mobile Market and cooking and nutrition classes. We talked to some of the veterans who attended last month’s Mobile Market there to learn about the challenges they face and how the food helps them.
Danny, a veteran who served 26 years in the Army, attended the Mobile Market with his wife to ensure they’d have enough food for themselves and their two teenagers. Like many veterans, they’re on a fixed income and only get paid once a month, so money is normally very tight at the end of the month. “Sometimes it’s check to check,” said Danny. “A lot of people, especially veterans, are one crisis away from losing everything. Whether that be financial or PTSD and things like that, they’re one event away from potentially losing everything they have—the ability to support themselves. With veterans, I would hate to think somebody who is more than willing to say, ‘Yes, I’m willing to die for you’ would then not receive some help. A large number of veterans, we have a house, but it may be a house of cards. One leg is taken away and everything crumbles.”
Cheri served in the Air Force for five years. After retiring from the military, she was hit by a drunk driver and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Since then, she’s had to relearn many things, including how to feed herself. At a previous Mobile Market, her dietitian at the VA walked through the bus with her and showed her how to select healthy foods. This time, she attended by herself, which made her very proud. Cheri normally gets overwhelmed in a grocery store, and the Mobile Market bus provides a smaller, more manageable environment for her to “shop” for food. “For veterans, especially the ones that have been injured, you get to the point where you feel defeated and not useful,” said Cheri. “This gives you a leg up – a chance to be independent again.”
Erica was medically discharged from the military in 2003 after serving for almost five years. She heard about the Mobile Market from her MOVE group at the VA Medical Center—a program that encourages healthy lifestyle changes, including eating nutritious foods. “It’s a tight month, and we’re getting low on food this month,” she said as she waited in line for the event to begin. She said veterans often don’t ask for help when they need it because of the shame they feel. Erica described what it’s like for her to have a very limited food budget. “You go without. You learn not to waste food. You look at prices at the grocery store. Everything you buy, you look at the price. It’s very stressful.”
You can make sure veterans and others facing hunger in our community have the food they need to live healthy lives. Donate, volunteer, or host a fundraiser for Second Harvest. Every dollar matters because every meal matters.