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A Food Pantry Just for Veterans

MONTROSE, N.Y. – The Montrose campus of the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System has a program unique to its VA hospital counterparts around the country, a food pantry. The food pantry at the VA Montrose is the largest in the nation, and serves about 300 veterans every month.

“These tend to be veterans that are consistently in need,” said Gitelson. Many areas food banks, like the Cortlandt Emergency Food Bank, provide food for families on an “emergency” need basis. In other words, families are not encouraged to rely on the food banks generosity, but to use it in times of great need. The Montrose VA food bank provides food for veterans on a regular, monthly basis.

“As a social worker at this facility, I thought it might be helpful to have a food pantry,” said David Gitelson, head of the social work department at the VA Montrose. While the food pantry never turns away donations, it is one of the most well-stocked food pantries in Westchester.

American Legions, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Jewish War Veterans all donate to the food pantry on a regular basis. The pantry also receives donations from the Food Bank of Westchester. “There are probably food drives going on all the time,” said Gitelson. The pantry is three large rooms, lined with shelves, all stocked to the brim.

The holiday season, of course, contributes to the plentitude in the food bank. The pantry will provide meals for well over one hundred veterans, and often their families. Gitelson said it’s hard to determine the number of families that benefit from the program, since they focus primarily on veterans.

“It’s a very valuable commodity,” said Nancy Winter, spokesperson for the VA Montrose, about holiday meals. “Around the holidays, more people are willing to have food drives because they know hunger is a problem.”

The program is run by about eight very committed volunteers. The pantry offers everything from fresh produce to meat. “Initially, we were only able to provide non-perishables,” said Gitelson. The program now partners with the Food Bank of Westchester, to provide a greater variety of food.

The pantry is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Those wishing to volunteer should contact Yvette Rodriguez, Head of Voluntary Services, at (914) 737-4400, ext. 3714.

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