Hungry veterans need help. Here’s how communities can provide it.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Nearly one in four U.S. veterans faces hunger. These are the people who have served overseas, responded to disaster areas and sworn to protect their country. 

A recent study by Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute at 10 faith-based food pantries in Indiana and Kentucky – five pantries in each state – suggests there is promise for underserved veterans and their families.

Through its Reaching Rural Veterans initiative, the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) developed a pilot program to evaluate resource and food security in rural veterans. It is the first such study, and results were published in the Journal of Public Health.

Reaching Rural Veterans helps local food pantries develop and host monthly resource fairs that bring together organizations to make sure veterans have access to veterans’ associations, benefits, housing, health care and other needs.

To participate in the program, the food pantry staff was asked to plan resource fairs and complete cultural competency training, including awareness of issues facing veterans. Purdue’s MFRI and the University of Kentucky’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences led the training.

“Working with pantries is cost-effective because they already have physical locations and staff,” said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a professor of human development and family studies, and director of the MFRI. “Several pantries still continue to do these events.”

The Salvation Army in Anderson, Indiana, is one of the sites that continues with a regular resource fair and food distribution. It became the site after another organization discontinued hosting the program.

According to databases, there are more than 9,000 veterans in Indiana’s Madison County. Shelly DeLong, social services coordinator for The Salvation Army in Anderson, said the program has helped veterans who have served in war or peace, but most of them are 50-plus years old, have health issues or have a disability.

DeLong was a member of the initial community work group in Madison County and has been working with volunteers to draw more veterans into the event.

On April 5, DeLong and a group of volunteers served beef and noodles, green beans, mashed potatoes, cake and drinks to 23 veterans and two family members who came to The Salvation Army for a resource fair. In addition to the meal, fellowship and the occasional war story, the veterans and their families were able to leave the event with food and appointments to address their various issues.

 “It is good to see them come in, get checked and get access to resources. Most of them do use the food pantry,” DeLong said.

“One of the surprises was that we had contact with so many veterans,” MacDermid Wadsworth said. The goal, originally 300 participants, was easily surpassed, with 1,094 veterans — 430 in Indiana and 664 in Kentucky. “That was the reason we did this, as those veterans earned the right to get resources.”

The study saw improvements in food pantry staff’s knowledge of veterans’ needs, as well as increased participation by veterans.

Of the 1,094 participants, 234 veterans participated in follow-ups regarding food security, social services and health conditions. The group discovered the need to improve dietary intake, which would help with chronic health conditions. In addition, the results could lead to overall health improvements if veterans have access to proper programs and benefits.

 “By developing Reaching Rural Veterans, we are trying to extend the front door of the Department of Veterans Affairs to these rural areas,” MacDermid Wadsworth said.

The study was a collaborative work by members of Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences, including MacDermid Wadsworth; Andrea Wellnitz, a project manager at MFRI; Breanne Wright, a doctoral student; and Heather Eicher-Miller, an associate professor of nutrition science.

This work was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Rural Health (VA251-15-C-0041). 

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-496-2571, oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Sources: Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, shelley@purdue.edu , @MFRIPurdue

Shelly DeLong, Salvation Army, 765-644-2538, shelly_delong@usc.salvationarmy.org 

Note to Journalists: For a copy of the paper, please contact Matthew Oates, Purdue News Service, at oatesw@purdue.edu


ABSTRACT

Reaching rural veterans: a new mechanism to connect rural, low-income US Veterans with resources and improve food security

B.N. Wright, S. MacDermid Wadsworth, A. Wellnitz and H.A. Eicher-Miller

Background: Rural, low-income US veterans face additional barriers to accessing food and resources compared to urban veterans. Based on both social-ecological and cultural competence approaches, the Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV) pilot intervention built on the existing infrastructure of food pantries to improve food security and connect rural, low-income veterans with resources. This article describes the process of implementing and evaluating RRV.

Methods: Five rural food pantries within each of two states, Indiana and Kentucky, received training in cultural competence and held monthly outreach events where food and services were offered to veterans. Veteran adult participants completed an assessment at baseline and 3- month follow-up that measured food security using the US Household Food Security Survey Module and self-reported resource enrollment. Repeated measures logistic regression models evaluated the odds of improving food security and resource enrollment from baseline to follow up (significance P < 0.05).

Results: RRV recruited 234 participants; 53% completed the follow-up assessment. At follow-up, the odds of household (P = 0.009) and adult (P = 0.01) food security increased, as did enrollment in one or more of the following resources: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, General Assistance or Assistance from the Township Trustee (P = 0.005).

Conclusions: RRV yielded promising preliminary results of improved food security and resource use.

Regions Bank VP offers financial insight and resources for military and veteran families

Military and veteran families have different financial needs and opportunities in comparison to their civilian counterpart. Schiela Pena, a military child, is the vice president of community relations at Regions Bank. Listen to her discuss financial options and resources for military and veteran families.

Participants sought: Conversations about post-deployment adjustment

University of South Florida researchers are seeking eligible military spouses or significant others to participate in a study that seeks to understand the experiences of partners who have (or have had) concerns about their service member’s post-deployment adjustment.

The research results may inform programs that assist military and veteran families.

Participation in the study involves two steps. First, spouses/significant others will take a 10-minute online survey to make sure they are eligible. The survey will also ask about their relationship history. Second, those interested in participating in a 45-60 minute follow-up video chat interview will be asked to provide contact information for scheduling purposes. The interviewer will inquire about their ideas and experiences as a military spouse or partner.

Those who complete the survey will receive a $5 digital Amazon gift card. Those who elect to participate in the interview will receive an additional $20 Amazon gift card upon its completion.

Only the researchers will see the information provided, except as may be required by law. No military organizations will have access to this data. If a report of this study is published or presented at a professional conference, no identifying information will be used.

In order to be eligible for the research, participants must:

  • be the spouse/significant other of a military service member or veteran;
  • have been married or together since before the service member’s most recent deployment;
  • have had one or more conversations with the service member about the challenges of readjusting to civilian life post-deployment; and
  • be 18 years old or older.

The service member or veteran must have (a) served in the U.S. military, (b) been deployed abroad (outside of the United States), and (c) returned from the most recent overseas deployment within the last two years.

For more information, or to participate in the research, email milfamstudy@usf.edu.

Communities selected to enhance lives of military members with MFRI’s Military Supportive Communities Initiative

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University selected two communities to participate in the Military Supportive Communities Initiative (MSCI). 

MSCI is a two-component effort intended for places that are dedicated to improving the lives of veterans, service members and their families. The components include the Community Enrichment program and the Data Academy. 

Community Enrichment

Communities (or counties) selected for the Community Enrichment program will organize a representative team of local residents who will play a vital role in community development.

Two communities were recently selected for the 2019 Community Enrichment program.

Wabash Valley Military Support GroupWabash Valley Military Support Organization is located in Terra Haute, Indiana which is the largest urban catchment area of the Wabash valley. Terre Haute is home to several military components and has a history of community support and dedication to veterans.

 

James Ramer, Vigo County Veterans Treatment Court coordinator, said being part of MSCI will benefit the military community members in many ways.

“The program will allow for a guided approach to look at our community in a new way, a way that will focus on the communities needs for military families. As a result we hope to bring this new information to light when discussing community needs with new stakeholders who want to invest their time in the enhancement of military and veteran lives.”

4 County Joining Community Forces IndianaFour County Joining Community Forces Indiana, representing the military/veteran and family community in Howard, Miami, Cass, Pulaski and Fulton counties has worked to improve the lives of their local service members, veterans and their families since 2012.

 

Phil Turner, Four County Joining Community Forces Indiana co-facilitator, said the group is excited to be part of the project.

“Across the state of Indiana, there is a need for communities to focus on military and veteran families. 4 County Joining Community Forces Indiana’s goal is to support and assist military and veteran families in a five county area, but the impact of that support will greatly increase by being part of this program.”

Data Academy

The Data Academy will help community members to explore, refine and enhance their skills in using data. Selected communities will learn to use gathered data in ways that lead to community-level programs to enhance the well-being of military and veteran families.

Applications are for the Data Academy are due March 1 with selections announced in the spring of 2019.

Learn more about MSCI by visiting bit.ly/MFRI_MSCI

MSCI is a collaboration between MFRI, the Purdue Center for Regional Development and the Purdue University Extension Community Development Program.

Additional trainings created for SBHP providers

A nationally-recognized initiative created by the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University (MFRI) and others has expanded training opportunities for civilian behavioral health providers.

Star Behavioral Health Providers (SBHP) now offers sustainment training for providers who have completed SBHP Tier Two training. The initiative was created by MFRI, the Center for Deployment Psychology, the Indiana National Guard and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration in 2010. SBHP trains civilian behavioral health professionals about military-specific issues. It also helps military and veteran families find SBHP providers through an online registry that MFRI maintains and manages.

Providers wanting to increase their knowledge about service members, veterans and their families can sequentially complete three training tiers, each targeting specific areas of military culture and evidence-based psychotherapies. Providers that complete Tier Two training now can add sustainment training to their portfolio.

“Sustainment training was added to continue provider education,” said Christy Collette, MFRI outreach specialist. “Unlike prerequisite trainings, this covers additional topics, such as military sexual trauma. It also offers continuing education units.”

An award-winning initiative, SBHP is now active in nine states. The collaboration was the model for federal legislation that increased civilian behavioral healthcare support for military and veteran families.

The first sustainment trainings will take place Nov. 14-15 in at the American Red Cross of Indiana, 1212 E. California Road, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

To learn more about SBHP and sustainment training, visit starproviders.org or contact Collette at flynn14@purdue.edu.

Join the conversation by following MFRI on Facebook and Twitter @MFRIPurdue.

About MFRI

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University conducts research on issues that affect military and veteran families and works to shape policies, programs and practices that improve their well-being. Founded in 2000, MFRI envisions a diverse support community that understands the most pressing needs of military and veteran families. To achieve this, MFRI collaborates to create meaningful solutions for them. This internationally-recognized organization is located at Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Battlemind to Home Summit a resounding success

Nearly 300 behavioral health, legal and service providers gathered in Indianapolis Tuesday to increase their knowledge and strengthen community supports for veterans, service members and their families.

Battlemind to Home Summit is one of the most engaging military and veteran health summits in the state. The summit is hosted by the Military Family Research Institute, in partnership with the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical CenterIndiana National Guard and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Its purpose is to increase community awareness about the challenges and opportunities that are unique to military and veteran families. Ever expanding, this year’s featured content addressed legal needs for the first time. It also addressed physical and mental health concerns, and offered information about creating and increasing sense of community for military personnel.

In one breakout session, attendees learned ways to engage veterans as community assets. Another session focused on increasing community awareness about families and caregivers of veterans. Finally, another breakout presented suicide gatekeeper training to help attendees understandi how to “Question, persuade, and refer” an at-risk individual. Judge Dave Certo and the Indiana State Bar Association presented a mock veterans treatment court to educate attendees about diversion court benefits, and Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Stube (Ret.) presented a powerful afternoon keynote detailing his lessons learned from the battlefield.

Next year, Battlemind to Home Summit turns 10, and MFRI looks forward to hosting the summit at Purdue University. The event temporarily leaves Indianapolis to enable more service providers through the state to attend. To be notified about Battlemind to Home Summit 2019 programming and registration, complete this form. You can also find information about Battlemind on social media by following MFRI on Twitter using #battlemindIN, and “liking” MFRI on Facebook.

Battlemind to Home Summit registration closed

Registration for Battlemind to Home Summit (Battlemind) closed Aug. 22 due to overwhelming participant demand.

It is the first time registration has closed nearly two months before the event.

“We are excited to have a completely full Battlemind to Home Summit this year,” said Christy Collette, outreach specialist for MFRI. “Reaching our goal means providing education about military and veteran families to as many Indiana professionals as we can.”

Battlemind is one of the most engaging military and veteran health summits in the state and will be held Oct. 9 in Indianapolis. The summit is hosted by the Military Family Research Institute, in partnership with the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical CenterIndiana National Guard and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Getting the information presented at Battlemind into the communities of each participant is key,” said Collette. “We can do this at a higher rate based on the interest level this year.”

To be notified about Battlemind to Home Summit 2019 programming and registration, complete this form. You can also find information about Battlemind on social media by following MFRI on Twitter using #battlemindIN, and “liking” MFRI on Facebook.

For questions or inquires contact Collette at flynn14@purdue.edu.

Battlemind to Home Summit registration closes Oct. 1

Registration for Battlemind to Home Summit, one of the most engaging military and veteran health summits in the state, closes Oct. 1, 2018.

Battlemind will be held Oct. 9 in Indianapolis at the Marriott East. The event brings together subject matter experts to educate Indiana professionals about the critical issues facing our veteran population. Sessions for 2018 focus on topics related to mental health concerns, community mobilization, legal needs and support and more.

Christy Collette, Military and Family Research Institute Outreach Specialist, said attendees will choose two breakout sessions to participate in at registration.

“There are 12 breakout session for attendees to choose from. Topics such as engaging veterans in your community, VA claims and faith based initiatives are just a few session participants can engage in.”

Breakout sessions include:

  • Suicide gatekeeper training
  • VA claims bring calm to veterans
  • Engaging veterans as assets in your community
  • Discharge upgrades
  • Veterans Treatment Court – a mock court session
  • Increasing community awareness about veteran families and caregivers
  • Maximize the Influences of Veteran Treatment Court mentors
  • Counseling on access to lethal means for individuals in crisis
  • Building blocks for energizing communities
  • Office of the Indiana Attorney General assistance for service members and their families
  • VA Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives
  • The ethics of representing clients with diminished capacity

First time attendees have the opportunity to apply to the Colonel Roger Peterman Scholarship, covering the registration cost of attending Battlemind.

“Roger retired from the Indiana National Guard after 33 years of service and served on the Battlemind planning committee since its beginning. This year we are offering one paid registration in his honor.”

Colonel Roger Peterman scholarship applications are due Aug. 13.

Register Now

Battlemind is hosted by the Military Family Research Institute, in partnership with the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indiana National Guard and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Find information about Battlemind on social media by following MFRI on Twitter using #battlemindIN, and “like” MFRI on Facebook.

For questions or inquires contact Collette at flynn14@purdue.edu.

Operation Hire A Hoosier Veteran job fair June 27

The Military Family Research Institute is one of several organizations sponsoring Operation Hire A Hoosier Veteran. The 12th annual employment and resources fair is organized to provide employment assistance to service members, veterans and their families. This year the fair will be June 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in the Agriculture/Horticulture building.

New this year is the resources area, where experts will provide guidance to job seekers in resume building, interviewing techniques, social media best practices and fair strategies.

The fair will be open from 9 a.m. to Noon for service members, veterans and their families with the remaining part of the day also open to the general public and military community members.

Employers seeking to hire service members, veterans and their families are encouraged to attend. Employer sponsorship options include:

  • Basic Registration ($190)
  • One Star Employer ($275)
  • Two Star Sponsor ($500)
  • Three Star Sponsor ($750)

Job seekers and employers can register and find additional information at www.ohhv.org.

MFRI report reveals details about lives of service members, veterans and their families

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University and the Purdue Center for Regional Development unveiled a ground-breaking report, “Measuring Our Communities: The State of Veteran and Military Families in the United States” on May 14.

The report unveils rich and specific data on the state of military-connected individuals across the country, focusing on topics such as employment, education, mental health and legal needs.

The event also highlighted an exceptional online data tool created by MFRI and the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) called Measuring Communities. The tool allows service providers and professionals nationwide to make data-driven decisions when it comes to serving the unique needs of service members, veterans and their families by providing localized data.

The Measuring Communities tool, already used by more than 60 organizations, enables real-time data analysis across a range of issues offering rich and nuanced data points about military-connected individuals in the communities in which they live.

Those who wish to utilize the tool can register for access by visiting, measuringcommunities.org.