Guest Opinions

Help Idaho veterans: More than 8,000 rely on SNAP to help make ends meet

Many local organizations hold food drives to help The Idaho Foodbank. To learn how you can donate and to find food-drive events, visit the food bank’s website at IdahoFoodbank.org.
Many local organizations hold food drives to help The Idaho Foodbank. To learn how you can donate and to find food-drive events, visit the food bank’s website at IdahoFoodbank.org. Idaho Statesman file photo

Veterans Day reminds us of our duty to support Americans in uniform who have served our nation. It’s an opportunity to reflect on our veterans’ sacrifices and examine ways we can help them when they return home.

We all agree that no veteran should go hungry. But hunger, unfortunately, remains a serious concern for veterans in Idaho and across the country. That’s why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, is so important — it plays a critical role in helping veterans put food on the table. In fact, more than 8,000 Idaho veterans rely on SNAP to help make ends meet.

This critical support, however, is in jeopardy for thousands in our state as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., try to reconcile two competing visions for SNAP. The Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill protecting and strengthening SNAP, while the House continues to push a version of the farm bill that will take food assistance away from more than 2 million Americans through cuts and harmful changes. The House approach would be devastating to Idaho veterans.

SNAP is one of the best anti-poverty programs in the country. It provides modest assistance — averaging $1.25 per meal in Idaho — but makes a big difference.

Veterans sometimes face unique barriers as they try to rebuild their civilian lives. Some veterans have a disability that makes it harder for them to find and keep a job. Research shows that households that have veterans with disabilities may find it more difficult to afford adequate food and other basic needs than households with veterans who have no disabilities.

Young veterans who leave active duty often have little work experience beyond military service, and searching for a job while serving in the military can be challenging. Overall, young male veterans have higher unemployment rates and lower labor force participation than young male civilians. As a result, the veterans are more likely to struggle to put food on the table than their nonmilitary counterparts.

A 10-part documentary series from McClatchy Studios follows three U.S. veterans living with PTSD. Watch the full series at facebook.com/WarWithinShow/

While the Department of Veterans Affairs has programs to help veterans gain the skills they need for civilian employment, many veterans may be harmed by the bureaucratic red tape and severe sanctions contained in the House version of the farm bill.

SNAP is a critical lifeline and allows veterans to focus on what matters most — reconnecting with loved ones, finding a job or addressing health challenges that may have resulted from their service — rather than worrying about where they will get their next meal.

Supporting veterans includes supporting SNAP. This Veterans Day, let’s honor our veterans by backing the Senate farm bill, which will continue to help Idaho veterans put food on the table.

We can also contact Idaho’s lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and let them know that we want a farm bill that’s based on the Senate’s SNAP provisions, which guarantee SNAP will continue to help veterans in Idaho and across the country feed themselves and their families.

Karen Vauk is the president and CEO of The Idaho Foodbank.
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