This year, Stop & Shop celebrated Veteran’s Day with a donation of 1,000 Thanksgiving turkeys to Feeding Westchester, Westchester County’s largest nonprofit hunger relief organization, in an effort to help meet the unprecedented need for holiday assistance. A group of local Vietnam War veterans were on hand to load the Feeding Westchester truck as part of Stop & Shop’s Turkey Express program.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are twice as likely to be food insecure compared with the general population. A 2018 study reports that 1.5 million veterans in the United States lived in a household that relied completely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to get food. The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities noted that, in New York State alone, 59,000 veterans rely on SNAP benefits to feed themselves and their families — a number that has only worsened due to the adverse impacts of COVID-19.
“We’re here to help those who have helped our country,” said Duke Searles, Vietnam War veteran and Volunteer Supervisor of VA Hospital Supportive Housing Food Pantry. “I know what it is like to not want to ask for help, but we have an abundance of food for the veterans and their families through the VA pantry, and so many other services available for them to get the help they deserve.”
Current law limits the availability of SNAP benefits to military families, with one of the results being that approximately 9 percent of active duty service members – roughly 90,000 families – have sought charitable food assistance during the past year.
“We are grateful to Stop & Shop for their generous support once again through the Turkey Expressprogram and honored to have the assistance of Duke and his fellow Vietnam War veterans,” said Feeding Westchester President & CEO Karen C. Erren. “The pandemic has created unprecedented need that isn’t limited to certain zip codes or professions. Many are experiencing food insecurity for the first time and, as we enter the holiday season, will require assistance. A number of our senior citizens, for example, rely on help from their families. Because of the pandemic, some will be spending the holidays alone – unable to put food on the table through the winter months.”
Feeding Westchester’s network of more than 300 partner agencies and programs throughout the county are serving more than 300,000 residents who are hungry each month — more than twice as many as pre-COVID-19. The nonprofit has distributed nearly 16.5 million pounds of food, or 13.8 million meals, in the last year compared to 10.1 million pounds in 2019. Due to the pandemic, Feeding Westchester distributed 123 percent more food from than the same time period last year.
“Supporting our neighbors in need who struggle with food insecurity is a priority for Stop & Shop every day,” said Maura O’Brien, Stop and Shop Supermarket Co., External Communications & Community Relations. “Sadly, many of those who have served our nation have found themselves food insecure, and we are so proud to support Feeding Westchester in their work to provide these Thanksgiving turkeys and other necessary food to our veterans and others across Westchester as we approach this holiday season.”
Stop & Shop’s Turkey Express program will deliver nearly 22,000 turkeys to hunger relief organizations in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey this holiday season.
Feeding Westchester is located at 200 Clearbrook Road, Elmsford, NY 10523. They can be reached at (914) 923-1100 or by visiting feedingwestchester.org.