Developing strategies to end hunger

Veterans and Hunger

Photo for Veterans Day
Veterans need and deserve a strong nutrition safety net so that they can live healthy lives. Photo by Jim Stipe.

On this Veterans Day, we remember all those who made sacrifices -- including, of course, many who gave their lives -- to defend our country.

But those who return from military service often fall on hard times. The Center for American Progress reports that as of December 2011, nearly one in seven homeless adults were veterans. U.S. census data from 2010 showed that nearly a million veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 -- more than 968,000  -- had lived below the poverty line within the previous 12 months.

The results of one of the first polls to focus specifically on veterans and hunger were released on Veterans Day 2011. In New York City, the survey showed, about one in four households with military veterans had trouble putting food on the table.

Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of the Food Bank for New York City, which commissioned the poll, said then, "Survival was supposed to be about getting them home to their families. But their second level of survival is how to be fed and have dignity."

Ironically, veterans who worry about where their next meal will come from may well have helped to feed others. The U.S. military has a history of working to make food available to hungry civilians in the aftermath of conflict. One intervention that helped establish an anti-hunger role for the military: The date was 1918. As a piece in the Huffington Post describes, American soldiers in northern France set up makeshift kitchens and distributed food that saved the lives of refugee children and families.

Many veterans have young children to support. Others have already raised their families, while still others served this country's interests but do not have a spouse and children. In a wealthy country such as the United States, all of these men and women deserve sufficient nutritious food.

Michele Learner


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