FORT LENOARD WOOD, Mo. –The pandemic has shifted a lot of active duty soldiers around, leaving some struggling with access to food.
Organizations like Blue Star Families make sure soldiers and veterans get the support they need, even if they don’t ask for it.
“As a military family I think that we have our own type of struggles,” Chapter Director for Blue Star Families of Missouri Tai Kaimes said. “There’s certain things we’re going to be able to relate to that that non military families or civilian neighbors won’t be able to relate or fully understand.”
Military families and Veterans have experienced several hardships throughout the pandemic.
“We have 600,000 military families moving every year,” Kimes said.
“There’s a lot of veterans that were laid off,” Member of the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Mary Herrera said. “It’s been well over a year since we’ve been going through this. The need keeps getting greater and greater.”
Ozarks Food Harvest has noticed a great need for food.
“Pre-pandemic we were estimating in southwest Missouri that 1 in 7 people were food insecure,” Ozarks Food Harvest Public Information Officer Jordan Browning said. “Right now we’re estimating that number has gone up to 1 in 6 people are facing hunger in the ozarks.”
The U.S. Department of Defense reports active duty members are food insecure double the national average. Some say military pay is low, especially for lower enlisted soldiers. Other say access can serve as a barrier too.
“I think our national guard family members and our reservists, those families are also kind of struggling,” Kimes said. “A lot of times too they’re not close to an installation, so they may think they don’t have the same opportunities or resources available to them.”
“Within our active-duty outfit there’s been some insecurities where the troops that need to go from base to base are quarantining for a certain amount of time and they’re not allowed to go out and get what they need,” Herrera said.
Blue Star Families of Missouri distributes food between 200 and 400 families.
“Not only will I support the members here in the Fort Leonard Wood area but I will also support those at Whiteman Airforce Base and those in Scott Airforce Base and all of our national guard members and reserves,” Kimes said.
Ozarks Food Harvest is the Feeding America food bank for southwest Missouri, serving 270 organizations across 28 Ozarks counties. It’s partnering with Panera on Campbell Avenue Friday for the eighth annual empty bowls fundraiser to raise awareness and funds to fight childhood hunger.