Poverty fighting groups in Missouri are asking federal leaders to protect those who protect our country. Congress is working on the Farm Bill, which includes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Jeanette Oxford, executive director of the advocacy group Empower Missouri, explains more than 37,000 veterans in the state rely on the program to help put food on their tables. “There are actually people serving in our military right now that use SNAP, and there’s certainly a lot of veterans whose wages currently leave them low enough to need assistance putting food on their tables, even though they have served our country in ways for which we are very grateful,” she points out. Oxford notes that newer, young male veterans have higher unemployment rates and lower labor force participation rates than similar civilians, which can make it harder for them to afford enough to eat.
An estimated 1.4 million low-income veterans across the country receive SNAP assistance. Oxford says lower-income veterans often face unique barriers as they try to adjust to civilian life, which can affect their earning potential and ability to find employment. “Unfortunately, conditions under which people are deployed sometimes leave them with some health or mental health conditions that have to be addressed, at least for a period of time, that may cut into their earnings,” she states.
Legislators are working to reach agreement on a final Farm Bill, and Oxford is supportive of the U.S. Senate version, which she contends would protect SNAP. “We don’t always show it with our public policies that we truly appreciate them (veterans),” Oxford states. “And keeping the SNAP program good and strong – so it’s there to help veterans at times when they have nutrition needs – is a way to show with our public policy that we truly do appreciate their service.”
The Homeless Veterans’ Task Force Community Partnership of the Ozarks also advocates for a strong SNAP program. As Chairman Jack Hembree put it, “The majority of formerly homeless veterans who have found housing through federal programs depend on the nutritional support they receive through the SNAP program – and a reduction in SNAP support would be very difficult to replace by other community resources.”