Local officials last week helped Haverhill-based Veterans Northeast Outreach Center mark the distribution of its 1,000th food box for local veterans. Each box contains enough food for a family of two to have three meals for 14 days, which translates to 84,000 individual meals distributed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Representatives of Veterans Northeast were joined by state legislators, community partners and volunteers at Northern Essex Community College. The meals are distributed in partnership with Food4Vets, a statewide program administered by the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation. President Don Cox of the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation was in attendance to mark the occasion.
“It has been a matter of honor and pride for me, and for the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation, to serve veterans in Haverhill, and we appreciate VNEOC’s help in distributing these Food Boxes,” said Cox.
Also in attendance were state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs in the state legislature, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio; Veterans Northeast Outreach’s Executive Director Ed Mitchell, Outreach Manager Gail Hewins and Deputy Director Rocco Vandermerwe; Haverhill Veterans’ Service Officer Luis Santiago; members of the Lawrence Elks Lodge, who donated $2,000, and partners and volunteers.
Campbell secured $50,000 in state funding for the Food4Vets program as part of a COVID-19 spending bill that was signed into law in July. The program ramped up quickly during the pandemic and opened pop-up “empowerment centers” across the Commonwealth, including at Northern Essex, to distribute millions of meals to Veterans. To date, five million meals have been distributed throughout the state.
“This is what it looks like for a community to come together during a difficult time to care for one another,” said Campbell. “I am grateful to the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation and the many volunteers for making sure our Veterans’ basic needs are met. The Food4Vets program has done incredible work, making it possible to secure additional state funding to help more Veterans in Haverhill and across the Commonwealth.”
“After answering this nation’s call to serve, so many of our veterans endure physical and mental health struggles, disabilities, financial hardship and difficulty transitioning to civilian life and jobs—challenges that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 emergency,” said DiZoglio.
“The food donations are a vital part of Veterans and their families being able to survive – especially through the past six months,” said John Ford, VNEOC Director of Community Development and Outreach. “We appreciate the critical partnerships—especially with Mass Military Support Foundation, Shaheen Brothers Distributors and the Accidental Food Bank that makes this all possible week after week. This is an acknowledgement of how working together can make a difference.”