The Omaha VA is opening a new food pantry Wednesday designed to serve as a life preserver for area veterans struggling to stay financially afloat.
The goal: Give the 10,000 or so Nebraska and western Iowa vets living below the poverty line a way to get free food at least twice a month, VA officials say.
This, in turn, should help some of these veterans continue to pay their rent or mortgage so they don't become homeless, said Linda Twomey, director of mental health speciality programs for the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System.
"We do know there's a huge need for these services," Twomey said. "One of the strategic items (to end homelessness among veterans) is doing more prevention activities like this."
The food pantry, located at 4101 Woolworth Ave., Building D, officially opens for the first time at 10 a.m. Wednesday. It will be open from 10 a.m. to noon on the first and third Wednesdays of every month, Twomey said.
The pantry's days and hours may expand in the future, she said, depending on the number of veterans walking through the door. Any low-income veteran is eligible, provided that vet isn't already living and eating at a homeless shelter. There's no limit on the number of times a veteran can show up to use the pantry — and no other strings attached, Twomey said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Pantry is a partnership between the VA and Together, a local nonprofit group devoted to homelessness prevention.
The pantry will provide meat, bread, other grains and canned foods. Hygiene products will be available, as will seasonal fresh produce.
This is the first time the Omaha VA has sponsored a food pantry, Twomey said.
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