For local food bank, partnerships are key to serving veterans


For those who served their country in the military, returning to civilian life includes many challenges such as access to employment and housing, as well as physical and mental health care.

These barriers can also lead to food insecurity.

Nationwide, 20% of households served by Feeding America Network food banks in 2018 included someone who served or is currently serving in the U.S. military.

Households receiving Supplemental Nutritional Assistance program benefits included 1.1 million veterans in 2019, according to the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.

In addition to the barriers to affordable housing, transportation and health care faced by food insecure populations, veterans have “the mental strain of memories of war,” said Charolette Tidwell, Founder and Director of Antioch for Youth & Family.

According to the American Community Survey, the US Census Bureau estimates that 10,106 veterans lived in Sebastian County in 2019. Of these veterans, an estimated 3.6% were living below the poverty line.

To meet the needs of veterans, Antioch for Youth & Family runs a monthly pantry. On September 24, Ameriprise Financial announced that the program will receive a $ 5,000 grant in October to continue its work in supporting veterans and their families.

The distribution serves 800 people in veteran households each month, Tidwell said.

At 11 a.m. on the fourth Friday of each month, veterans drive their vehicles to the back of the Antioch building, located at 1420 North 32nd St. Food is placed in the trunk of the vehicle.

“We encourage all veterans to participate in this process,” Tidwell said.

To pre-register, veterans can call 479-459-0669. If the line is busy, they are encouraged to leave a message that they are a veteran with their name and phone number, Tidwell said. They must have their veteran ID card.

During this month’s Veterans Pantry distribution on October 22, Antioch will conduct a Needs Assessment, a simple survey that allows Veterans to share other areas where they need support, such as housing, health care and legal services.

The survey will help Antioch to develop best practices and bring together existing services in the community.

“I’m a huge fan of consolidating resources to maximize problem solving,” Tidwell said. “The answers lie in collaborative community efforts. ”

The Veteran’s Mobile Pantry is a branch of the Antioch coalition of healthcare providers, mental health counselors, police and schools to support community members in all aspects of life.

In partnership with Judge Stephen Tabor of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Tidwell aims to expand services that meet the needs of veterans.

Tabor chairs the Sebastian County Veterans’ Treatment Court, which deals with “issues that bring them to be involved in justice while simultaneously having the ability to clear their records,” he said.

Treatments fall into three categories: drug-related problems, post-traumatic stress, and mental health issues other than post-traumatic stress.

“In our court, I know that Antioch and Ms. Tidwell, in particular, made a special effort to help veterans in need,” Tabor said. “They also offered our participants the opportunity to engage in volunteer work and also to receive training in various fields which would allow them to continue their rehabilitation efforts.”

“It’s a natural extension of our relationship and the missions of my court and how it works,” Tabor said. “I have known (Tidwell) for many years.

“Fort Smith is lucky to have it.

Catherine Nolte is a member of the body of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. She can be contacted at [email protected] Southwest Times Record and Report for America are working to place a new generation of journalists in community news organizations across the country. Are you supporting this effort today?

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