Anthony Gray, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, picks up a VIP Pack at Central Pantry.

Anthony Gray, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, picks up a VIP Pack at Central Pantry.

The Veterans United Foundation, the charitable arm of Veterans United Home Loans, announced it is donating $19,440 in support of The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri’s new VIP Veteran Pack pilot program. The donation ensures the local food bank will be able to extend the program several additional months.

VIP Veteran Packs are boxes of nutritional food that are selected with the needs of Veterans in mind. Boxes include ready-to-eat entrees and fruits, vegetables and soup in easy-to-open cans. Peanut butter, beef sticks and soft nutritional bars are also included, with personal care items rounding out the kit.

“Ensuring our local Veterans have access to proper nutrition is paramount,” said Miranda Giger, Veterans United Foundation outreach coordinator. “Our foundation is proud to support this new program that addresses the needs of our low-income Veteran population.”

Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank, said she is thrilled to have Veterans United Foundation on board with the pilot project.

“This is new territory for us, so the support of this foundation affirms that we are correct when thinking that this very important population is deserving of extra nutrition,” she said. “While we are still looking for creative ways to make this a permanent program, the Veterans United Foundation’s support will allow us to have more time to operate and evaluate the VIP Veteran Pack pilot program.”

VIP Veteran Packs are now being distributed at the Central Pantry, which serves about 300 Veterans a month, as well as to Veterans living or seeking help at Welcome Home and Patriot Place. There are about 650 Veterans in Boone County living at or below the poverty line. In The Food Bank’s service area, there are more than 5,000 Veterans living in poverty.

“Ideally, if the Boone County program becomes permanent, we would like to be able to replicate the VIP Veteran Pack program in each of the 32 counties we serve,” Lopez said. “But we will be strategic about implementation and ensure that we have the necessary resources to make this a reality. We certainly think it is an effort worth pursuing.”