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SOCHE, VetsLink 211 collaborate to feed veterans struggling with food insecurity

In 2015, SOCHE collaborated on a system of organizations called VetsLink to help connect former military members to resources. One of those resources, said Cassie Barlow, president of SOCHE, is consistent food access for veterans and their families.

“So what we did was we reached out to the Bob Woodruff Foundation and we applied for a grant specifically for food insecurity for veterans,” she said. “And we didn’t just win the grant once, we won the grant three times for a total of $30,000.”

Those funds, she said, helped support a food pantry in collaboration with the Dayton Foodbank on-site at the Veterans Affairs Center. Lee Lauren Truesdale, chief development officer for The Foodbank, said that has since been adapted due to challenges brought on by COVID-19.

“At the end of 2020, they had to shut down on-site,” she said. “They had to take the pantry from the building, outside to do a drive-thru model. And of course [with the] weather … there were a lot of challenges around that as well as you enter the colder months.”

Truesdale said for now, The Foodbank is serving veterans from their own drive-thru on Mondays and Wednesdays, but added that the grant has been the catalyst for some upcoming changes that will make access to meals more convenient.

“That’s really changed the way that we’re going to operate the VA pantry,” she said. “We’re currently still working with the VA thinking of new and innovative ways to best reach veterans who are struggling with food insecurity.”

Barlow added the best course of action for those who need food but don’t have the transportation to get to The Foodbank, “… is reach out to VetsLink. Dial 2-1-1 anytime, day or night 24/7, 365 and VetsLink will connect you to resources that you need, whether it’s housing, or help with your bills, or food. They will connect you to resources right here in our region that will get you what you need.”