Some MA vets, active-duty service members struggle to afford food

Some MA vets, active-duty service members struggle to afford food

BOSTON — Food insecurity is a growing issue that does not discriminate. The pandemic has really exposed this need and exacerbated it for so many.

Boston 25 News has reported on the millions of Americans who are struggling with food insecurity, not knowing where they’ll get their next meal.

Among those seeking assistance for food are active duty service members and veterans and it’s not always easy for these brave men and women to admit they need help.

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“Soldiers have been trained to be tough and stick it out and do without and it’s hard to ask for help,” said Iraq War Veteran, Erich Zink.

Boston 25 met Zink at in Bedford at the Veterans' Administration-Greater Boston Food Bank Veterans Free Produce Market.

“And this Foodbank allowed us to keep our dignity and to and to be part of a community,” Zink said.

Tom Schatz served in Vietnam.

“Just to pick up some essentials that, you know, we usually can’t get out to the store and get ourselves because a limited income,” Schatz said of his need.

The veterans free produce market is a monthly drive-up program that provides each veteran with two to three bags of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“And you can see today we don’t have very much left and we’re still feeling 10 minutes left into the market,” said Laurel Hollins, Chief of Voluntary Service at Bedford VA Hospital.

Hollins says it’s open to veterans, active duty, reserve and national guard service members with no income limits.

The market began in 2016 serving 128 veterans. Now there are more than 1,903 enrolled. And, the market is receiving 30-60 new enrollments per month.

Families come for a variety of reasons.

“A lot of families with new babies,” Hollins said. “And it might be, you know, it might be the woman who’s the service member and dad’s home with the kids. It’s really goes both directions, but they often remarked what a big help it is to their families and if we have any leftover today it will go over to Hanscom for those families too.”

The Bedford VA food bank has becoming an increasingly important resource for those who sacrificed their country feeling grateful to get this help in return.

The VA says they’ve had to request a 20% increase in supplies as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed more veterans in need. This is a monthly food market. The next one is coming up on October 15th.

For information on how you can volunteer at the Free Produce Market or at the VA Bedford, call volunteer services at 781-687-3076.