Rep. Mike Levin Chairs Hearing on Food Insecurity Among Veterans Featuring Testimony from Two San Diego-Area Organizations
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) led a House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing on food insecurity among veterans, which included testimony from Vince Hall, CEO of Feeding San Diego, and Denise Hollywood, Chief Community and Programs Officer of Blue Star Families in Encinitas.
Last year, Rep. Levin led a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue highlighting the harmful impact that the USDA’s proposed eligibility restrictions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would have on veterans and their families. The USDA failed to provide requested data on the number of veterans who currently utilize SNAP benefits and the number of veterans who will be impacted by the rule.
“We’re voting on a War Powers Resolution later today. I’m thinking of the men and women of extraordinary character who are serving this country and sacrificing for our national security. The least we can do is provide our military families and our veterans with food security, it’s the very least we can do,” said Rep. Levin. “This committee asked earlier in this hearing how many veterans will be impacted by this Administration’s proposed changes to the SNAP program. I appreciate that USDA agreed to work with VA to, at the very least, try to provide us with that data. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, doesn’t go far enough in my opinion… We set the highest expectations of our military to serve our country and we need to set equally high expectations of ourselves to serve them. We shouldn’t be allowing a single veteran in need to go hungry, ever.”
“Like so many of our Committee members, I was concerned by the SNAP changes that took place last year and how they would impact veterans and active duty servicemembers-- but also members of the Guard and Reserve who often face employment challenges and may be food insecure,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano. “Without good data, we simply don’t know the full scope of the program. The men and women that serve this country shouldn’t have to do so on an empty stomach.”
In response to a question from Rep. Levin, Mr. Hall said, “You hit on a key point, Mr. Chairman, and that is stigma, that no one who has worn the uniform for the country feels pride in accessing food through hunger relief charities. It is really our duty, our obligation morally, to support those who have served this country to ensure that they don’t need to turn to charitable organizations to have a minimal quality of life after they themselves have put their life on the line for this country. So only by partnering with these organizations that have the trust of veterans do we find that we are able to create safe environments where we minimize that stigma and maximize their dignity, but it is still always an ever present challenge.”
“Those who make significant sacrifices for our country should never struggle to put food on the table. Blue Star Families welcomes the opportunity to lend our expertise to Congress as they seek to resolve this critical issue,” Ms. Hollywood said.
The full subcommittee hearing can be seen here.