SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Military veterans are fighting a new battle across the country. The enemy: food insecurity. As many as 125,000 active military members and their families are struggling to put food on the table, according to Feeding America.
Many active-duty and former military veterans in central New York are fighting the same battle. Anywhere between 25,000 to 30,000 veterans in central New York depend on charitable food programs, according to a 2017 study by the Food Bank of Central New York.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased veterans’ dependencies of these food programs, according to Alexander Behm, the executive director at Clear Path for Veterans.
“We saw a drastic increase in the need for emergency food assistance,” Behm said.
The pandemic forced many food banks to slow down operations or stop completely. Clear Path remained open despite increased demand.
“The need tripled from what we were doing before the pandemic,” Behm said.
With Thanksgiving and the holiday season around the corner the need for assistance increases as well.
“Last year for Thanksgiving we delivered over 350 food boxes,” Behm said. “So, yeah, it definitely increases during the holiday time.”
The food box includes a whole turkey and the full Thanksgiving meal. Despite the increased need during the holidays, Behm says veterans who need food assistance is an issue that lasts throughout the year.
“I would honestly argue that the need is there everyday,” Behm said.
Behm hopes this Thanksgiving and this year will be the most successful yet.