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Military veterans and families face food shortage amid pandemic

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A food pantry in Texas that serves veterans and struggling military families is now in dire need of help itself. The donations the pantry relies on are disappearing as others continue to struggle throughout the pandemic. Janet Shamlian has more.

Video Transcript

- The Biden administration is pushing for an increase in food stamps, or SNAP benefits, amid growing numbers of food insecure Americans. Among the millions in need, military families and veterans. And in Texas, one of their lifelines is about to run out. CBS's Janet Shamlian is there.

JOHN VALENTINE: Your chicken yet?

JANET SHAMLIAN: John Valentine just might have the biggest heart in Killeen, Texas.

JOHN VALENTINE: Did you get some candy? Did you get some candy? Come on. Let's get mommy some chicken.

JANET SHAMLIAN: For seven years, he's run a food pantry in the shadow of Fort Hood, helping struggling military families and veterans like himself. This is a passion project for you.

JOHN VALENTINE: My service and my country meant everything to me. So in getting out, I kind of wanted to still do something where I could impact that community of people.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Since the pandemic, the need has grown. But cash donations that keep the bills paid have dried up as others struggle too.

JOHN VALENTINE: We'll have like diced tomatoes, there's oatmeal--

JANET SHAMLIAN: The father of four who even dug into his own savings now facing a harsh reality.

JOHN VALENTINE: To shut our doors is going to devastate this community because it's going to be a lot of families that are going to go without food or not as much food.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Operation Phantom Support has had to reduce giveaways to once a week.


JANET SHAMLIAN: On Saturdays, more than 500 people take home food. Soldiers like Sierra Ellis and Toby Bohlinger both with two children and stay at home husbands.

SIERRA ELLIS: We want to be able to provide for our families on our own. We don't want to ask for the extra help because we are proud.

JANET SHAMLIAN: John Valentine is proud too. But he's pleading for help on the pantry's Facebook page, knowing without it families like Courtney Smith's will struggle.

COURTNEY SMITH: It's really sad. And I really don't know how we actually would be able to supplement that income if it does go away.

JANET SHAMLIAN: A recent study found almost 40% of active duty families have needed food support since the pandemic hit. The seeming injustice of those who provide security, often food insecure. Valentine hopes to continue his post military service. You'll do anything to save this place.

JOHN VALENTINE: Absolutely. I mean in the end, this place is more important than me. This place is more-- one day I'm going to leave. But this place can continue on because of what it does. The mission can keep going.

JANET SHAMLIAN: For many of our veterans and military families a different battle, getting enough to eat. Janet Shamlian, CBS News. Killeen, Texas.