Veterans and Food Insecurity

Veterans and Food Insecurity

How some heroes need our help.

By Mary Beringer, Grant Writer

Veterans Day is almost here, a time to pay tribute to those who put their lives on the line to defend our country. As of 2017, there were 774,935 veterans in Ohio, and 19,998,799 nationally. They make up a significant portion of our communities, and almost half of all veterans are over 65. While some veterans thrive once they return to civilian life, many feel the negative impact of their military experiences for years or even decades afterward. Because of this, a shocking number of America’s veterans experience food insecurity.

Pinpointing the reason so many veterans struggle with food insecurity is difficult, though the contrast is certain; working-age veterans are 7.4% more likely to be food insecure than non-veterans of the same age.

Another factor at play is disability status. 43% of veterans who served post-9/11 have a service-connected disability, and veterans with disabilities are 22.5% more likely to be food insecure than the general population. Both physical and mental disabilities can make it difficult to obtain food. Disabled veterans might have to worry about how easy it is for them to leave the house to get groceries. A mobility issue could make driving difficult, while PTSD might make it hard to go to crowded places, and depression or other executive function-related conditions can make it hard to even step out your front door. Disabled people can also have difficulty finding a job that will accommodate all their needs, which might put a strain on their food budget.

We have also talked before on this blog about how the shift from the draft to an all-volunteer force means that many people who choose to enlist are already coming from a socio-economic background associated with poverty, higher rates of mental health problems, and lower educational attainment. This may be why veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan seem to have especially high rates of food insecurity, even compared to their older peers, though of course seniors have unique struggles with food insecurity.

The food insecurity that veterans experience can also extend to military families. As of 2020, one-fifth of families served by foodbanks have a veteran member. Feeding America theorizes that this high rate may be for multiple reasons, including low salaries for lower ranks, the high unemployment rate for military spouses, or the high cost of living near military bases.

Other factors that can contribute to veteran food insecurity include homelessness and a lack of affordable health care options. Though many people assume that all veterans automatically get healthcare coverage through the Department of Veteran Affairs, the truth is that most veterans are dependent on private health insurance. As of 2014, there were tens of thousands of veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system who hadn’t seen a doctor in at least ten years. Similarly, though there are programs in place to help veterans find housing, veterans still make up 8% of all people experiencing what is called “sheltered homelessness”, meaning they have recently used an emergency shelter, transitional housing, or a similar service. The number of people experiencing “unsheltered” homelessness is difficult to track, but it seems reasonable to assume that a similar percentage of that population also holds veteran status.

Of the nearly 20 million veterans in the country, 4 million of them live in poverty or live paycheck-to-paycheck. 1.2 million of those veterans use SNAP according to the latest census data. More veterans are eligible for SNAP, but may not know that they qualify, or they may feel insecure about needing help. Veterans are often proud of their self-sufficiency and can sometimes have a hard time asking for help, even when it is readily available. This Veterans Day, in addition to thanking the veterans in your life for their service, make sure they have everything that they need, and let them know they are supported. Even the strongest and bravest among us need help sometimes.



“Active Military and Veteran Food Insecurity.” Feeding America, Feeding America,

“Census Bureau Releases New Report on Veterans.”, United States Census Bureau, 2 June 2020,

“HUD Releases 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.”, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 4 Feb. 2022,

Lutz, Jamie, and Caitlin Welsh. “Food Insecurity among Veterans: Who Is at Risk and How to Respond.” Food Insecurity among Veterans: Who Is at Risk and How to Respond | Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for Strategic & International Studies, 10 Nov. 2021,

McIntosh, Caitlyn. “Federal Assistance Programs Are Especially Critical for the Disabled Community.” The Dayton Foodbank, The Foodbank, Inc., 29 July 2021,

McIntosh, Caitlyn. “For Older Adults, Hunger Hides in Plain Sight.” The Dayton Foodbank, The Foodbank, Inc., 16 July 2020,

McIntosh, Caitlyn. “One in Five Families Served by Food Banks Has a Veteran Member.” The Dayton Foodbank, The Foodbank, Inc., 11 Nov. 2020,

McIntosh, Caitlyn. “SNAP Is Critical to Our Hunger Relief Work – Here’s Why.” The Dayton Foodbank, The Foodbank, Inc., 24 Sept. 2020,

Ohio State Summary. United States Department of Veteran Affairs,

“Why Are so Many Veterans Food Insecure?” Move For Hunger, Move For Hunger,

Keener Farm Charitable Organization

Community Action Against Hunger

Keener Farm Charitable Organization Joins Hunger-Relief Efforts

By Lauren Tappel, Development and Marketing Manager, and Kelsi Steinkamp from Keener Farm Charitable Organization


You know what weighs the same as two tractor tires and is heavier than 17 bushels of apples?

The 850 pounds of beef donated last week to The Foodbank, Inc. in Dayton!

In June, the nearly two-century-old family-owned Keener Farm launched a charity initiative to fight hunger in the community while supporting local farm economies across Ohio: Keener Farm Charitable Organization. KFCO purchases cattle from local farmers, processes the cattle into ground beef, and then donates the meat directly to Ohio food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and faith-based organizations.

Matthew Keener (Keener Farm Charitable Organization) and
Michelle L. Riley (CEO of The Foodbank, Inc.)
standing next to the first donation of ground beef

This is a welcomed operation during the current period of economic instability with supply shortages, inflation, and increasing numbers of people in need of support.

The Foodbank works to supply a network of more than 100 local nonprofits with the nutritious foods needed to alleviate hunger across the Miami Valley each day. While most food is sourced through food drives, state and federal food programs, and retail donations, The Foodbank also purchases wholesale food items needed to fill gaps on the shelves. Inflation has affected everyone’s grocery budget, and it has also impacted The Foodbank’s wholesale food purchasing budget as purchases doubled from $0.55/pound in fiscal year 2021 to $1.07/pound in fiscal year 2022.

The idea for KFCO began one year ago around the Thanksgiving table as Matthew Keener, founder of KFCO, discussed with family the challenging financial times this country was descending into. Matthew is a strong believer that, especially in tough times, those who are able to give have a responsibility to do so. As conversation progressed on that Thanksgiving Day, a path to help began to unfold. Many people have donated their time and expertise to design and implement this charitable model, and now it’s a tried-and-true process, with cattle purchases, processing and donation having occurred!

Montgomery County Commissioners Judy Dodge and Carolyn Rice
stand with Matthew Keener in front of The Foodbank, Inc.

“At The Foodbank, we pride ourselves on being good stewards of donated funds. When we need to mitigate gaps on our shelves, a lot of effort is put into purchasing food in a fiscally responsible manner. Even when inflation is low, purchasing fresh protein can be a challenge” Lauren Tappel, Development and Marketing Manager for The Foodbank explains, “In particular, it can be difficult to justify the purchase of beef when The Foodbank could purchase a more affordable option, such as chicken, at a lower price. Support from Keener Farm Charitable Organization provides our food bank with local, high-quality beef not often seen in the charitable food system.”

“When an individual is food insecure, they often skip meals or buy less groceries to pay for other expenses such as rent, utilities, gas, medications, and so on,” Tappel continues, “Keeping this in mind, KFCO’s donation makes a significant impact as the retail price for ground beef is often above what our neighbors experiencing food insecurity can afford. We are so grateful for their partnership and for providing the opportunity to offer such a fresh, healthy protein option to families in need.”

The Foodbank was a grateful recipient of this donation, which will benefit 98 partner agencies across Montgomery, Greene and Preble counties. Having the product delivered directly from the farm to The Foodbank’s location will not only ensure freshness, but also grant a longer time frame for distribution into the community.

To join the fight against hunger, you can learn more and support the Keener Farms Charitable Organization by visiting Follow KFCO along on this journey on Instagram and Facebook @keenerfarmcharity.


About KFCO

The for-profit, parent-company Keener Farm has historically supported sustainable, local food systems. As a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, it has worked to better connect producers and consumers ultimately to strengthen our local food system. The Keener Farm Charitable Organization is taking this work a step further by addressing increasing food insecurity in the community. The mission is to fight hunger and support American farmers.