As we move into the season of plenty—starting with too much Halloween candy, too much pumpkin spice (I said it!), and too many holiday desserts, it is sometimes easy to forget that so many in our community are food insecure. While we worry about holiday weight gain or what to do with so many leftovers, too many of our neighbors—including veterans—are hungry.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity means a “lack of consistent access to enough food for a healthy, active life.” The USDA further reports that 1 in 8 Americans are food insecure, including nearly 12 million children. The pandemic has also driven an increase in food insecurity among Hoosiers, including veterans. According to Feeding America, 13% of the population in Marion County is food insecure.
HVAF’s partner, the Indy Hunger Network, conducted an Unmet Need Study in 2021 that revealed 25% of Marion County residents use some sort of food assistance and 1% still have unmet food needs. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that veterans are twice as likely to be food insecure and the risk is highest among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now that we’ve reviewed the data, I’d like to pause here: Hunger is a personal feeling of physical discomfort.
In our space, we talk a lot about systems change and ways to really move the needle for all those experiencing homelessness. Today, I’d like to make this more personal. I’d like to make it about the veterans with personal feelings of physical discomfort because they are hungry.
Several months ago, I was covering our front desk late on a Friday and a veteran rang our bell asking for food to get him through the weekend. I packed a bag of food to help this veteran, who was living unsheltered on our city’s streets. When I took it to him, he gave a significant amount of it back—saying I should save it for someone who needed it more than him.
So, let me ask this…. Do we give out of our abundance? If this veteran can give despite his need, don’t we have an obligation to do our part too?
As of August 31, HVAF received nearly 11,000 pounds of food from generous donors in our community. We have also distributed nearly 30,000 pounds of food in just under 2,000 visits to our food pantry.
The need is great, and we need your help to close this gap to ensure that veterans in Indianapolis have access to the food they need for healthy, active lives.
I hope you’re wondering now how you can make a difference, because I’m about to tell you! Organize a food drive at your place of employment, in your neighborhood, or with your friends. Pick up a few extra items when you shop for your family—especially items like peanut butter and jelly, pasta sauce with meat, and other protein sources to drop off at HVAF. You can also make a monetary donation to HVAF to be used to help feed hungry veterans.
Together, let’s make this season of plenty truly a season of plenty for all veterans in our community!