by Adele LaTourette, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy
What does one have to do with the others?
On the day that we commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who have served in our Armed Forces, it’s important to recognize that upon returning to civilian life, our veterans sometimes come home with more than medals and memories of time served. They come home with little work experience beyond the skills they learned while serving. Their experience in the military is often undervalued by civilian employers, which can translate into lower wage jobs and high turnover. Adjustment to civilian life is hard and made harder when time served leaves you with PTSD and other related issues.
This means that many of our veterans face housing and food insecurity. We’ve all seen homeless vets on the streets, and pantries see them on food lines. Statistics from 2021 show that, of the 312,000 veterans living in New Jersey, only 5%, or 14,000 receive SNAP.
I spoke with Steve Katz, Executive Director of the Somerset County Food Bank Network, who does a once-a-month distribution of emergency food at a local housing complex for veterans. Steve is a retired Colonel who saw combat and spoke with me about why there’s need for emergency food for the veterans we give thanks to on Memorial Day.
“It’s hard for people to assimilate to civilian life. They often come back with mental health issues, substance abuse issues. They need help before they’ll be able to look for work,” he said.
Steve serves 70-80 vets over three hours on the one day a month he’s at the housing facility.
Getting back to the title of this blog post, what does one have to do with the others?
The Farm Bill is the authorizing legislation for SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This Memorial Day, let’s remember our veterans by working to protect SNAP, to ensure there are no cuts or additional barriers put in place that would keep people off the program. Let’s work with people like Steve and others, helping our veterans with not just emergency food, but with programs that can help them get on their feet long-term programs like SNAP and supportive housing, counseling, and job training. Let’s lift them up, not just in thought and not just for one weekend of the year, but all year round.