The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University is collaborating with University of Illinois Extension and select Illinois food pantries and faith-based communities on Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV), a Purdue-based program that connects low-income, homeless and low-resource rural veterans with affordable housing, health care and other resources.
With support from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, RRV expanded this spring into Effingham, Fulton, Perry, Saline and Union counties in Illinois. Each food pantry is receiving grants, education and assistance to help them mobilize local resources for military and veteran families.
Roughly one-third of all veterans live in rural areas and are often less likely to have access to needed services than those in urban areas. Reaching Rural Veterans events provide opportunities to thank veterans for their service while also helping them find needed resources close to home, said Rena Sterrett, senior program administration specialist with MFRI.
To identify counties that could most benefit from the initiative, Sterrett and her colleagues at MFRI collaborated with representatives of Illinois Extension. After choosing five rural counties with relatively high numbers of veterans, Extension staff also located potential partner food pantries.
“Illinois Extension was a valuable partner in helping target counties that could most benefit from the program because of their intimate knowledge of the state,” Sterrett said.
As part of the grant process, MFRI representatives are educating food pantry staff and volunteers about the strengths and struggles of military and veteran families and helping them recruit military-connected organizations to participate in pantry events. Ultimately, Sterrett said, she hopes to reach 50 veterans in each of the participating pantries — a goal that will require coordination among area partners.
“Addressing a community’s needs for food, shelter and employment is an important step in establishing stronger bonds between local organizations and the military and veteran populations,” Sterrett said.
About Purdue University
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About the Military Family Research Institute
Using data-driven solutions to real-world issues, MFRI works closely with collaborators to improve the lives of veterans and military families.
About University of Illinois Extension
The flagship outreach effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois Extension offers educational programs to residents of all of Illinois’ 102 counties and beyond. Extension provides practical education you can trust to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills, and build a better future.