On Monday, July 11, Us4Warriors CEO/Co-Founder Anthony "Tony" Stewart, past commander of The American Legion Department of California's District 22 (2014-2015) based in San Diego County, testified in front of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity at a hearing in Oceanside, Calif., on "Ending Veteran Hunger: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Insecurity."
Stewart, hailing from Chula Vista Post 434 where he served as commander from 2010-2014, co-founded the Us for Warriors Foundation (or "Us4Warriors") along with submarine veterans from Post 434 in 2013, working closely with many Legion posts in the San Diego County area to connect service programs. During 2016, Stewart noticed an issue regarding food insecurity that was affecting county active-duty military, veterans and their families. Working with Post 434, Post 731 in Linda Vista, Post 365 in Vista, Post 149 in Escondido and Post 146 in Oceanside, the Food4Warriors program was born with parking lot venues and helping hands from dedicated Legionnaires who continue to volunteer to this day.
Per Stewart, veterans “find themselves facing choices between going hungry or being able to afford the gas to drive to one of the food locations available or affording food while maneuvering through a challenging job market,” among other challenges faced by them and their families.
Stewart drew from various statistics, including a recent 2021 USDA study focusing on "Food Insecurity Among Working-Age Veterans," and concluded food insecurity was 22.5% higher among disabled working-age veterans. Also, recent studies outline that veterans who are likely experiencing serious mental health challenges are at a 10-times-higher rate of hunger than those of the general population. The local San Diego VA Healthcare "Food Empowerment Program" encountered a 22.3% increase in food insecurity for those over 60 during COVID, further demonstrating the need to act.
"We could not have established our Food4Warriors program nor sustained it without the support of The American Legion, especially Department of California’s District 22, who we has been with us in efforts to help veterans since we established," Stewart added, "and they did not miss a beat, during the pandemic."