SAN ANTONIO – In Military City U.S.A., the San Antonio Food Bank has always helped serve active duty military families and veterans needing its help, however, during the coronavirus pandemic, the need is even more apparent.
“Boy, it was surprising to go from 15% to 37%,” said Eric Cooper, the food bank’s president and CEO.
Accustomed to seeing military members in uniform helping to unload and distribute items at the food bank, Cooper said a recent encounter he had in the food bank’s lobby was a sobering moment.
“Hey, are you here to volunteer?” Cooper asked a man in uniform.
But the man was not at the food bank to help.
“He kind of hung his head and said, ‘No, I’m actually here to get food,’” Cooper said.
The Military Family Advisory Network in a recent study found that in Texas, one in six of those families were experiencing food insecurity and hunger.
Cooper said the food bank also has looked at the factors contributing to the rise in food insecurity among military families.
He said the food bank’s weekly food distribution includes an estimated 45,000 people that have some connection to the military.
After analyzing the figures, Cooper said many who had left the military were now studying to learn civilian job skills so they weren’t employed.
Another major factor, Cooper said, were military spouses who had been helping support the family were working in the hospitality industry, but had lost their jobs in the pandemic.
John Brazier, a disabled Army veteran, said the pandemic meant he could no longer earn a living as an independent professional wrestler.
“I have always tried to take pride on providing for my family and not having to look for handouts or help,” Brazier said. “Just because that’s the man that I am.”
He said thankfully, a friend told him about the San Antonio Food Bank.
“It’s amazing to see so many people giving back to our community, you know, because this is San Antonio,” Brazier said.
Cooper said being able to help military families is humbling.
“In some ways, it’s a source of pride that we can actually serve those that served our country, protected our freedoms, put their lives on the line for us and their family members,” Cooper said. “Now, it’s our opportunity to serve them.”