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No One Who Has Ever Served This Nation Should Go Hungry!

Veterans often face an array of challenges when they make the transition from active duty to civilian life.   Joining the workforce, adjusting to a different pace of life, and reintegrating into their home and community are all challenges that veterans can expect and, to some degree, prepare for as they come to the end of their military service.

And yet, one obstacle no veteran anticipates facing is food insecurity.

Sometimes called chronic hunger, food insecurity has been defined as “the lack of consistent, ongoing access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”  Surprisingly, a recent government study found that more than one in four veterans enrolling into the Veterans Administration Health Care System reported having experienced food insecurity within the last year.

The Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center (CIVOC) long ago came to understand that hunger among veterans across Cape Cod and on Martha’s Vineyard is a rapidly expanding public health concern…and since the pandemic turned life upside down, the challenge has grown faster than any of us ever expected.  Let me share just one recent constituent story with you.  I’ll call him “George” to ensure his privacy:

“George”, 63, is a United States Army Veteran and just one of the many food-insecure individuals who receive assistance through the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center’s weekly food pantry in Hyannis.  “You guys are just a complete blessing,” George shared with me. “If you weren’t here, I would eat only every other day.  That’s really all I could do to make it through the week.”

Before this food was made available to him, “George” would go out whenever it wasn’t raining or snowing, collecting bottles for their deposits. “After a good morning, I’d get about $20, which I’d use for food.” With that, “George” would live on ramen noodles, canned goods, macaroni and cheese, and other foods high in sodium, carbs, or sugar; a typical calorically rich, nutritionally poor diet that only adds to the health challenges veterans like “George” already face.

“George” mentioned to me when I saw him at a recent Hyannis afternoon food distribution, that his diet is a lot healthier now thanks to his ability to access our food pantry. When I asked what he had received that day, he was visibly excited to tell me that he had been given frozen meat and chicken, fresh bread, fresh eggs, yogurt, butter, fresh milk, vegetables, potatoes, fruit, and a mix of other healthy foods that would carry him through the week.

While “George” shared with me that this time in his life has been a day-to-day struggle, he also told me that he’s both grateful and optimistic due to the support he’s found at the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center. “Places like CIVOC really make a difference in my life, and I don’t think I could have survived the last two years without their help,” he said.

Last year on the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, we were able to help 7,273 veterans and their families, thanks to you.  Your generosity and support make it possible for the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center to help veterans access healthy food at one of our 13 monthly food distributions which are sited in Falmouth, Eastham, Hyannis, and Vineyard Haven, as well as a wide range of other services, all provided at no cost to the veterans and their families that we serve.

As I write this letter to you, we are in the process of completing renovations to a new 1,100 square foot space, adjoining our Stevens Street Outreach Center in Hyannis, that will soon house CIVOC’s dedicated Food Operations Center.  When it opens in late-June, we will be able to accept the highest possible quality foods for the veterans we serve and bring them to the distribution locations…just in time…so that there is no waste and our veterans receive a better selection of foods than ever before.  We will also shift our weekly food distributions in Hyannis to the new, free-standing center.  Food deliveries to home-bound veterans is another pressing, near-term goal for our team.

To make the new Food Operations Center the success it needs to be, we are asking for your support with a gift of $25 or more…all of which will be dedicated to feeding hungry veterans across our region.  Besides the satisfaction that comes with knowing that you are helping a man or woman who has sacrificed for our freedom, every donor making a gift of $250 or more in response to this appeal will receive recognition that will be placed prominently on a donor appreciation wall in the new center.

For 39 years we’ve stood by our veterans in every conceivable way as they work to assimilate back into the lives they left before they served each of us during their time in the military. In return, CIVOC can help them where other organizations cannot, but we depend upon supporters like you to fund the programs that make the biggest difference.  Right now, the most pressing need is to end hunger among our veterans.

Please help us help our veterans and their families when they need us most.

No one who has served this nation, as our veterans have, should ever go hungry!

Your support provides access to healthy food, a place to call home, professional counseling, referrals, and more.