Groceries are more expensive than ever. Prices are 22.04% higher in 2024 compared to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

And here’s one more statistic that might surprise you: In Central Pennsylvania, more than 9% of households receiving food assistance have at least one member who has served or is currently serving in the military.

As I’m writing this column, today is D-Day, and Memorial Day has just passed. But veterans and their families need and deserve our support every day of the year, especially with basic necessities such as food.

That’s why I’m so very proud of the Alliance’s Brady Rodgers for his involvement in launching Adams County Veterans Advocate Network (VAN). In October of 2022, at his request, the Alliance put out the word to the general public. We invited anyone interested in improving the lives of local veterans to come together for a meeting. Following that initial session, the group has organized into VAN, dovetailing its efforts with the long-existing Adams County Veterans Affairs office headed by Stan Clark. Today, 18 months later, the group has grown to more than 20 participants representing nearly 20 organizations.

One of the biggest issues VAN chose to tackle is veterans’ food insecurity. Their efforts are on the verge of launching! Very soon, (date TBA), the Gettysburg Area Rec Park will serve as the Gettysburg MilitaryShare (food distribution) location, available to all Adams County veterans.

Within VAN, the group is fortunate to have agencies and members who are knowledgeable about the issue: Healthy Adams County, the PA Soldier and Family Readiness Group, the Adams Co. Veterans Affairs Office, and Jennifer Hagaman, who is a Veterans Services Specialist for the Central Pennsylvania region, including Adams County. She’s with the PA Dept. of Military & Veterans Affairs.

MilitaryShare locations already exist throughout the state, but this will mark the first Adams County location!

“It will be a drive-through distribution, relying heavily on volunteers the day of distribution for sorting food, packing loose items, checking off the participants and loading vehicles,” Hagaman describes.

She helped launch Clinton County’s MilitaryShare program in 2018, and she’s seen it grow from 60 participants the first month to 325 today, with a wait list.

“Distribution day was always one of my favorite days,” says Hagaman, “because you get to see first-hand the difference you are making in someone’s life, and you connect with those you see each month. It is truly a wonderful program, and although it’s unfortunate that we need this program, I am grateful we can do it for our vets.”

It costs $10-13 per family to provide this free food distribution program, in partnership with the Central PA Food Bank, to veterans. According to Hagaman, many MilitaryShare programs receive generous support from local businesses, grocery stores, churches, veteran service organizations and many individuals. Ways to support would be through a recurring monthly donation (many churches and veterans’ organizations like this option), hosting an event with the Gettysburg MilitaryShare as the beneficiary (such as a benefit ride, a chili cook-off, or a dart, cornhole or pool tournament), a large corporate sponsorship, or a “Sponsor a MilitaryShare Month” donation.

Adams County Veterans or surviving spouses can register for the Gettysburg MilitaryShare by contacting Cathy Pristas via email [email protected] or phone 717-821-1488, or by stopping in at the Gettysburg Area Recreation Authority and seeing Erin Peddigree. Veterans will need to provide proof of military service (DD-214 or NGB-22, Military ID, VA Healthcare ID) to register.

Donations can be made by check and mailed to the Central PA Food Bank, 3908 Corey Rd., Harrisburg PA 17109. Checks should be made out to “Central PA Food Bank” with “Gettysburg MilitaryShare Acct. #80039” in the memo section. It is vital to include this account number to ensure donations go toward the Gettysburg MilitaryShare.

“The ultimate goal,” says Hagaman, “is to end the hunger issue altogether. Until that happens, we need to sustain the program until it is no longer required. Our veterans served their country, and we can certainly do our part in helping to alleviate worry in one area of their lives. It can make a world of difference.”healthy

Keep your ears and eyes on our social media accounts and website for the Gettysburg MilitaryShare launch date!

Robin Fitzpatrick is President of Adams Economic Alliance, which comprises three organizations: The Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) and the Adams County General Authority (ACGA). Follow us on Twitter (@AdamsAlliance), Facebook (Facebook.com/AdamsAlliance) and LinkedIn (Adams Economic Alliance).

This column originally published in the Gettysburg Times, June 13, 2024.