More than 190-thousand veterans live in Mississippi according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Officials say the number of veterans facing food insecurity is a concern. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, a new food pantry is helping.
Festive holiday music and tables filled with bags of food, socks, shirts and gloves greet veterans at the Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson. Michele McCallum, is with the center. She says they opened the food pantry in November, after receiving so many requests for food assistance.
"We have some crackers, we definitely have some soup. We always have some potatoes in there. I think we've got 2 or 3 bags of chicken. We also have snacks, Christmas holiday treats and we do have some necessities which is some rice, flour," said McCallum.
While McCallum says they don't know how many veterans don't have enough to eat, she says they've served 1087 veterans a total of 37,000 pounds of food. Sixty-year old Cindy McIntosh, of Puckett is a U.S. Navy vet who was paralyzed in a car accident after leaving the military.
"This is probably one of the greatest things the VA has done for our veterans. This is my first time here and I wheeled-in and I've just been treated like a queen," said McIntosh.
The medical center's CEO David Walker says when veterans come to the food pantry they can check to see if they're in their system.
"Because if their medical needs aren't being met, do they have mental health needs, are they homeless, are they at risk for being homeless? Those are the things If you're in our system we can begin to address," said Walker.
The VA partners with the Mississippi Food Network to stock the food pantry. Veterans must meet certain income guidelines in order to receive food pantry assistance.