Helen and her husband are both veterans. Middle aged, they both have had full careers, but fell on hard times recently and moved back to Alaska in search of work. Not having any luck finding a job, they tried to apply for SNAP benefits, only to find out that they were $20 over the income limit, due to Helen’s VA Benefits. So instead, they rely on food pantries to help get them through the month. “Never in a million years would I think I would use food assistance,” said Helen. “The first time we went to a pantry, my husband wouldn’t get out of the truck. He just said ‘I’m so ashamed.’”
Helen says she believes in “paying it forward,” and has helped a number of active-duty military families connect with local food pantries. Helen explains that they need the help, but don’t want to sign up for SNAP for fear of repercussions. There is often a heavy stigma associated with receiving benefits for members of the military.
Though times are tough for Helen and her husband, she is starting school soon to finish her bachelor’s degree in business, with help from the VOC-Rehab Program. Ever the optimist, she explains, “This isn’t who we are, this is a situation.”