Serving Those Who Have Served
– SNAP Matters –

October 10, 2018    /    By Samantha Rendon

Bexar County is home to over 153,000 veterans…the most densely populated veteran community in Texas. Nearly one is seven households served by the San Antonio Food Bank includes a family member who is a current or former military member.  Shayna and her husband are both veterans, they have two boys, ages 3 and 4 years old and are one of the households we serve in our community.

“My husband is 35 years old, he is 100% disabled and dealing with combat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),” Shayna says, “the transition from active military to veteran status has been very difficult.” In February, her husband was officially released from the military and was left with little benefits, no job, and no home.  They were lost and didn’t know what they were going to do. Studies show local veterans in the 18-34 age group experience unemployment at twice the rate of veterans in other age groups. “Many people don’t understand,” Shayna says, “in the military you have it all provided for you, but once you are out, you really have to find out what benefits you qualify for and don’t.”

With her husband and sons dealing with health issues, Shayna needed to be in a location that was military friendly and had a good medical standing.  “My oldest son just had his feeding tube recently taken out and my husband has chronic nerve damage,” she says, “San Antonio had everything, medical care, military background and we found Operation Homefront.” With assistance from Operation Homefront, Shayna and her family were able to temporarily secure a fully furnished apartment. Though a stable living environment has established, there is still the future to think about.

Utilizing his GI Bill, Shayna’s husband is a attend schooling in Dallas to receive his Associates Degree through an 8-month fast-track program for veterans. Shayna admires him for attending school and trying to better himself for the family, though on most days he is in pain. There are weekends he makes it home, but even when is home he is physically incapable of taking care of their children. “I turn into a caregiver for him as well,” she says.

Taking a deep breath, Shayna shakes her head softly as her children play in the nearby room. “No man or woman, who would sacrifice their life for this country, should have to worry about putting food on the table,” she says, “nor worry about either paying medical bills or giving your child dinner that night. Veterans deserve so much more.”

1 in 7 Households

Nearly one in seven households served by the San Antonio Food Bank includes a family member who is a current or former military member.

Shayna is a full-time mother with only a minimal VA income. Her daily activities include going to therapy for either herself or her children for various medical issues. She never wanted to admit she needed help or even wanted to ask for help, yet the food was getting low and the stress was getting high. She went to visit a WIC clinic and was given vouchers to use at a local Farmer’s Market. There, she was able to gather fresh fruits and vegetables and learn more about San Antonio Food Bank programs.

Knowing the produce would only last for so long, she turned to the Food Bank’s benefits assistance division and found more than just assistance, but friendships. “I called just to get information and [Tiffany] made me feel so loved,” she says, “no judgment at all, I feel like I found someone who truly cared about me and my children.”

Tiffany, a Client Services Representative at the Food Bank, helped Shayna apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children’s). Based on the benefits of the VA income, she missed the mark by $100, but was able to gain acceptance into WIC. That day, Shayna went home with WIC benefits and a box full of food from the Food Bank to help stock her pantry.  “My kids love peanut butter sandwiches and believe it or not tuna sandwiches, so I am glad the Food Bank provided us with what we needed,” she says, “food is the substance of life.”

“I truly appreciate the community who donates food and money to the San Antonio Food Bank,” she says, “they may not see who they are helping each day, but I am here to tell them, I am one of those families. This is my family,” she says as she holds back tears, “you are helping me help my family have food for one more day.”

Shayna is thankful to have the Food Bank and its partner agencies to access when she needs food assistance. She is also beyond grateful for the Food Bank staff, like Tiffany. Shayna knows in her heart this situation will be not go on forever, it is merely a stepping stone for taking care of her family at this time of need. “Right now, I use the Food Bank for my family’s necessities,” she says, “one day I will be able to give back like I did before and be the one handing out food and paying it forward.”

This story was recorded and produced by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Originally posted on September 26, 2018.