The Gulf Coast has rallied when taking care of its own during the pandemic and that didn’t stop today when the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System held a contactless food pantry for veterans.
Early Wednesday morning, Veterans Avenue in Biloxi had a line of vehicles waiting for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System’s first ever mobile food pantry where 200 boxes of goods were distributed on a first come, first serve basis. GCVHCS Homeless Veterans Program Manager Jodie Picciano-Swanson said, “We started early because we knew that veterans rise early. So, sure enough, we had a line up starting at 7:30 a.m. They were here before the truck was.”
Dozens of volunteers helped unload the truck and hand out the food. The mobile food pantry is an all-volunteer effort; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited its ability to recruit volunteers from outside the GCVHCS. “So many employees contacted us saying we want to volunteer for this event. And all these people that you see out here are employees who have volunteered their time to pack up the bags and to serve those who have served us.”
The pantry was set up as a contactless drive-thru function. Veterans and caregivers simply showed their Department of Veterans Affairs cards or retired military cards and employees loaded boxes and bags of food into their cars.
As veterans drove by, they received everything from vegetables to meat and eggs to Girl Scout cookies, all of which were donated by Feeding the Gulf Coast and other private donors. Biloxi Veterans Affair Medical Center Director Bryan Matthews said, “A lot of times people think the VA is an island within itself and the VA can do a lot of things for veterans, but we can’t do everything. And so in those instances when we need help our community becomes even more important.”
“We know that people have experienced job loss, some economic loss and no one, but especially no veteran, should wonder what they’re going to put on the table tonight for dinner.”