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A staggering number of vets suffer from “extreme rates of hunger.” According to a recent study, about 27 percent of veterans — just from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — “struggle to put food on the table.”

Thankfully, a new Department of Veterans Affairs’ initiative has launched with an aim to get this percentage down to zero.

This from the Washington Post:

Under the program, VA health-care providers will ask all patients whether they have run out of food or struggled to pay for it within the past three months. If they say yes, VA staff will connect them to a local food pantry or community program, share information on enrolling in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) or refer them to follow-up care with a dietary counselor, if needed.

Advocates say this is a critical step toward addressing hunger in a vulnerable — and often unreachable — population. Veterans frequently suffer from conditions, such as disability or mental illness, that can impede them from seeking help. The stigma against accepting “handouts” is also a common problem, said Stegall, whose program distributes pantry boxes at VFW Halls to help needy veterans feel more comfortable.

If you or a former service member you know is having trouble with hunger — and/or feeding their loved ones — you can contact the VA either by texting “838255”, calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing “1” or chatting online, confidentially, here.

If you’re enrolled in VA health care, you can securely message members of your health care team by clicking here.