Employees at the Biloxi VA Medical Center distributed more than 200 boxes of non-perishable food and other goods during a July event designed to support Veterans and their families during the on-going global health crisis.

Voluntary Services Officer Robert Davis sorts bags of non-perishable goods during the Mobile Food Pantry.

The Mobile Food Pantry, spearheaded by the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System (GCVHCS) Homeless Veterans Program, provided a contact-free, drive-through experience. Employees distributed pre-loaded bags to Veterans, caregivers and other eligible individuals who remained in their vehicles.

“The safety and well-being of the Veterans we serve is our utmost consideration,” said Health Care System Director Bryan C. Matthews. “And even while observing CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations, we’re still providing – and will always provide – care and assistance to the Veterans we are here to serve.”

Pictured above, Matthews distributes bags of non-perishable goods during Mobile Food Pantry.

Organized by Homeless Veterans Program and Voluntary Services

Feeding the Gulf Coast, a Feeding America regional member, donated most of the non-perishable items the medical center’s Homeless Veterans Program distributes. Additional items donated directly to Voluntary Services were also included in the effort, according to GCVHCS Homeless Veterans Program Manager, Jodi Picciano-Swanson.

“Many people have lost their jobs. This adds additional stressors, like how utilities, rent or a mortgage would be paid. How they are going to keep food on the table. While the Homeless Veterans Program maintains a food pantry for homeless Veterans, the goal of partnering with Feeding the Gulf Coast is to serve other Veterans experiencing food shortages.”

Volunteer Services continuously accepts donations of non-perishable items, including toiletries. It provides for more than 700 homeless and at-risk Veterans along the Gulf Coast. Biloxi alone has 200 homeless and at-risk Veterans.

Volunteer Effort

The Biloxi VA Medical Center’s Mobile Food Pantry was an all-volunteer effort. On July 29, Biloxi VA employees volunteered to fill bags and distribute them during the drive-through.

Homeless Veterans Program Manager Jodi Picciano-Swanson prepares bags of non-perishable goods during Mobile Food Pantry.

“Some of our nation’s Veterans may be particularly at risk. One of our top considerations is ensuring they have basic necessities, like food and toiletries,” said Picciano-Swanson. “These Veterans have already endured so much and we are always here to help.”

Voluntary Services Officer Robert Davis said the community has historically donated goods for Veterans in need. This event – at the height of the ongoing global pandemic – continues to demonstrate the sense of community the organization maintains with area individuals and organizations.

“Our Veterans are our top priority, and the community here has always been an integral part of our mission. The Mobile Food Pantry is always looking for ways to work with our community to provide assistance to our Veterans. The donations we received for this event will definitely provide assistance to those who have served our country.”

The Biloxi Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, along with the Mobile, Pensacola, Eglin and Panama City VA Clinics are all part of the GCVHCS, which is headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, and provides a variety of health care services to more than 70,000 Veterans.

Bruce Cummins is a public affairs specialist for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System.

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Published on Aug. 14, 2020

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