On this episode of the Food Podcast presented by Clearview Federal Credit Union, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank talks with Veterans Place about guardsmen and reservists facing food insecurity.
When the pandemic hit, families were thrown into crisis. Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank saw a record number of people coming to distributions to receive food assistance. If you watched TV, you probably saw the image of National Guard and Reservists across the country stepping in to feed the community.
The grim irony? Many who stepped in to help others get food are worrying about food themselves.
In June, The Washington Post posted a story with some shocking statistics. According to U.S. Census Bureau data from mid-April through early June, guard members and reservists had a food insecurity rate two times more than the national average.
Shannon Hagy, director of client serves for Veterans Place, says she’s seen this firsthand.
Veterans Place provides transitional housing for veterans, employment services and has a VA-funded service center which provides food, laundry and showers for veterans.
On average, they serve 100 veterans per year at their resource center.
In the past 6 months, they’ve served more than 250.
They have 48 beds in their transitional housing facility.
Every bed is full.
Hagy says while they’ve had people come in struggling with low-income and food insecurity among all veterans, guardsmen and reservists have had a particularly difficult year with the pandemic.
“If you think of a guardsmen or reservist, that’s typically not their full-time job. This past year with covid, most of them got activated. You have to think they were most likely taking a leave from work, so they’re taking a massive pay cut. They started having to make choices like, ‘Do I pay for my electric? Or what am I going to do about food? How do I feed my family?’” said Hagy.
Hagy says, in general, guardsmen and reservists are paid less than an active-duty service member. She says guardsmen do drills on the weekends once a month or once a quarter and the payment for that is significantly less than if you’re activated and put into a combat zone.
Veterans Place partners with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to give food assistance to veterans.
“It trickles into all of these other issues. Without good food you jeopardize healthcare. Without good healthcare you jeopardize everything else in your life. So making sure someone has access to food, holistic food like meat, dairy, bread, fresh produce — that’s super important to make sure someone is able to thrive,” said Hagy.
To learn more about the Food Bank, visit pittsburghfoodbank.org.
Listen: Guardsmen and reservists who stepped up to feed the community are struggling with food insecurity