2021 Spring Grants - Bob Woodruff Foundation

2021 Spring Grants

The following programs were awarded grants as part of the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s 2021 Spring Grants Portfolio, addressing urgent needs related to COVID-19.

Quality of Life and Urgent Needs


Armed Services YMCA

COVID-19 Emergency Food Assistance

Military families face unique challenges to food security, including high rates of spousal unemployment and barriers to accessing SNAP benefits. Prior to the pandemic, the Military Family Advisory Network reported that military and veteran families experience food insecurity at a higher rate than their civilian counterparts, and that nearly 28% of military families with children were receiving free or reduced meals at school. The Blue Star Families COVID-19 Pain Points Poll found that 27 percent of military spouses had lost the job they held prior to the pandemic, and an additional 15 percent had to reduce work hours or were unable to work within the first 10 weeks of the pandemic. The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) provides free and low-cost programs and services for military families, promoting youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for ASYMCA’s Emergency Food Assistance program has increased exponentially. This BWF grant will reduce hunger among at least 2,500 junior enlisted military families by providing emergency food distribution in San Diego, Camp Pendleton, Twenty-Nine Palms, El Paso, Fort Lawton, Fort Campbell, Hampton Roads, and Fort Bragg.

Bastion Community of Resilience

Community-Based Food System

In New Orlean’s Bastion Community of Resilience, returning warriors and families, including those with life-altering wounds and injuries, live alongside retired military and civilian volunteers to enhance their mutual wellbeing, satisfaction, and resilience. The Bob Woodruff Foundation provided initial support to Bastion in 2012 to create a long-term innovative housing solution for transitioning warriors and families with life-long rehabilitative needs. Bastion residents have complex health needs and are at high risk for food insecurity. In 2020, Bastion piloted a community garden and grocery delivery program to help residents access food during the COVID-19 pandemic. This BWF grant will support the development of a community-based food and nutrition system at Bastion. This program will build Bastion’s capacity to meet the nutritional needs of its residents in collaboration with globally acclaimed New Orleans chef Nina Compton, and with leading nutrition author and speaker Kathie Swift of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Specifically, this program will train and equip a core group of three residents, who will educate 30 community members via hands-on training to cook healthy meals in a weekly supper club, cater select community events at Bastion, and deliver highly nutritious meals to families throughout the community. Bastion’s Community-Based Food System will provide community engagement, nutrition education, and nutritious meals to reduce food insecurity and increase wellbeing for at least 33 residents.

Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.

Bay Pines VA Health Care System Medical Legal Partnership

Veterans may face stressful legal challenges such eviction, child support, drivers’ license revocations; or service-specific issues such as discharge upgrades or access to their VA benefits after returning home from service. These issues affect a veteran’s ability to gain or sustain employment or housing and impacts their ability to focus on medical needs and consistently receive treatment. Medical-legal partnerships (MLP) are an evidence-based approach to address social determinants of health by integrating civil legal aid into medical care teams. This BWF grant, made possible with thanks to the Wells Fargo Foundation, will support two attorneys working at Bay Area Legal Service’s MLP within Bay Pines VA Health Care System. The goal of this grant is to provide civil legal aid for at least 500 veterans served at the Bay Pines VA Health Care System to address the economic and social conditions that influence health.

Berkeley Food and Housing Project

Supporting Homeless Veterans & Their Families

Berkeley Food & Housing Project (BFHP) has a long history of quickly obtaining safe and secure housing for veterans experiencing homelessness, providing employment assistance, improving clients’ wellbeing, and providing supportive services to keep them housed. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness in the Bay Area had increased dramatically in recent years. The region has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the nation, and analysis from Columbia University predicts a 20% rise in CA homelessness due to COVID-19. BFHP administers multiple programs providing employment and social service support veteran households experiencing homelessness across five Northern California counties including Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma, Solano and Amador. This BWF grant will provide food for 200 veterans in BFHP’s Grant Per Diem and transitional housing programs, nutrition classes to help veterans make healthy decisions, and kitchen supplies for veteran household transitioning into permanent housing.

Capitol Area Food Bank

Food Assistance Support for Military Families and Veterans

The Capitol Area Food Bank believes that everyone deserves access to good, healthy food in every community. Military spouse employment lags far behind their counterparts, and the pandemic has further disrupted many military families’ second income impacting household budgets and threatening their ability to put food on the table. While data on the number of junior enlisted servicemembers living in poverty are a greater challenge to aggregate, Capitol Area Food Bank learned during implementation of their BWF-supported food pantry on Ft. Belvoir that these military families are at particular risk with basic pay income levels often below a living wage. This BWF grant will provide 80,000 meals to at least 2,000 food-insecure active-duty military families and veterans at Fort Belvoir, Fort Myer, the USO Warrior and Family Center at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (Bethesda Naval), and Joint Base Andrews.

Catholic Social Services

Homeless Family Services

Catholic Social Services provides a range of services and case management for Anchorage veterans and veteran family members who are homeless, or at-risk of homelessness by operating the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) funded Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. While the SSVF program covers a wide range of services, it does not consider internet service an eligible expense. This investment will ensure veterans have the critical technology they need to access online food and household deliveries, veteran and family telehealth and mental health appointments, employment services, case management virtual meetings, and other services from the safety of their homes.

City Harvest

Weekend Meals for Homebound Elderly Veterans

City Harvest is New York City’s largest food rescue organization, helping to feed the more than 1.6 million New Yorkers who are struggling to put meals on their tables. City Harvest rescues millions of pounds of food and delivers it, free of charge, to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens and other community partners across the five boroughs. Their programs help veterans and other food-insecure New Yorkers access nutritious food that fits their needs and desires; increase their partners’ capacity; and strengthen the local food system, building a path to a food-secure future for all New Yorkers. This BWF award will support City Harvest’s ability to provide over 600,000 meals to individuals and families through their network of 400 food bank, soup pantry, and other community partners across the five boroughs of New York City.

Citymeals on Wheels

Weekend Meals for Homebound Elderly Veterans

Citymeals on Wheels provides a continuous lifeline of nourishing meals and vital companionship to homebound elderly individuals across New York City. Their programs ensure that elderly New Yorkers receive both a meal every day of the year and frequent check-ins, which help make it possible for frail seniors to stay in their homes. Their weekend meals are an especially important tool in helping vulnerable older adults maintain food security. This grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation will fund the preparation and delivery of weekend meals for homebound, elderly veterans residing in New York City. With BWF funding, Citymeals on Wheels will provide over 37,000 weekend meals to 1,600 veterans across New York City. 

Clear Path for Veterans New England

Hunger Relief for Veterans in New England

Clear Path for Veterans New England (Clear Path NE) is dedicated to building a safe, supportive, and respectful place for veterans to seek the help and resources they need to successfully integrate into their communities. To address hunger, Clear Path provides a range of offerings including perishable and non-perishable food, and hot prepared meals. With this BWF award, Clear Path NE will improve the stability of 350 military/veteran households in Massachusetts and New Hampshire by providing a combination of case management and basic needs assistance.

Homeless Collier Coalition County

GAP Fund

Before 2020, Collier County, FL service providers did not need much assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs to address homelessness in their community. But during COVID-19, the community’s capacity to build strategies to address homelessness was impacted by the economic fallout in the region, increasing the need for resources. Lacking the traditional relationships with national public partners to invest quickly in service provision, the county needed leadership to build collaboration and address the growing needs. Collier Homeless Coalition has led the charge to develop community partnerships and a service delivery system to meet the needs of veterans experiencing hunger, homelessness, at-risk of homelessness. Collier County Homeless Coalition’s ability to identify the issue quickly, assess the needs, and implement a solution will ensure that veteran households are quickly stabilized if they experience financial hardship. This BWF grant will support 15 veteran households struggling financially to maintain and obtain housing.

Columbus House

COVID-19 Emergency Relief for Columbus House’s Veterans

According to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH), the 2020 annual one-night count identified 2,904 people in Connecticut experiencing homelessness—sheltered or unsheltered—of which 196 homeless adults identified as veterans. The need for homeless services in Connecticut is great and is likely to increase as the pandemic worsens, supplemental unemployment benefits expire, and eviction moratoriums are lifted in 2021. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals experiencing homelessness are a unique at-risk population given their lack of permanent housing, access to medical services, and other necessities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report in June 2020 about the impact of COVID-19 on people experiencing homelessness, examining electronic health records of over 50,000 people experiencing homelessness, and confirmed that they have increased prevalence for most medical conditions associated with severe illness from COVID-19. This BWF grant, made possible with thanks to the Wells Fargo Foundation, will support COVID-19 Emergency Relief for Columbus House’s Veteran by providing emergency financial assistance to at least 50 veterans experiencing homelessness or at-rick of becoming homeless, to mitigate financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connecticut Veterans Legal Center

Removing Legal Barriers

Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLP) address complex social factors that affect veterans’ housing, health, and well-being and cannot be properly remedied without the assistance of an attorney. In light of the public health and economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it is more important than ever to ensure that veterans access healthcare, secure adequate income, and maintain stable housing. Through their MLP with the VA Errera Community Care Center, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) is serving a large influx of new clients with healthcare, employment, and general legal needs. CVLC also anticipates a surge of urgent housing cases once eviction moratoriums are lifted. This BWF grant, made possible by Wells Fargo Foundation, will enable CVLC to provide legal assistance and strengthen pro-bono partnerships to secure veterans’ benefits for additional income, remove employment barriers, and address health and wellness issues.

Flagstaff Shelter Services

Veterans Shelter and Housing Program

Flagstaff Shelter Services (FSS) is the largest emergency shelter in Northern Arizona, serving as one of two “front doors” providing coordinated entry to services for individuals experiencing a housing crisis in Coconino County. FSS provides temporary shelter, healthy food, access to medical care and behavioral health services, hot showers, laundry services, and critical resources to veterans and their families experiencing homelessness. This BWF grant will provide emergency shelter, case management, and Rapid Rehousing services to eight veterans living in Northern Arizona who are not eligible for VA housing programs, ensuring that they secure and maintain stable housing.

Food Bank For New York City

Emergency Food Distribution to Veterans

For 37 years, Food Bank For New York City has been one of New York City’s leading hunger-relief organization. Food Bank For New York City secures, warehouses, transports, and distributes nutritious food including fresh produce to their network of nearly 1,000 member agencies including neighborhood-based food pantries and soup kitchens. Their services reach 90% of New York City zip codes. With this Bob Woodruff Foundation grant, Food Bank for New York City will decrease hunger and increase access to food for 20,000 veterans and other residents of New York City by distributing food to member agencies and operating outdoor pop-up distribution sites near VA locations across the city.

Home Front Military Network

Emergency Relief

Colorado is home to over 400,000 veterans and service members. In December 2020, the unemployment rate in Colorado was 8.4 percent, up 2 percent from November 2020, and nearly 6 percent from 2019. Home Front Military Network (HFMN) provides emergency financial assistance and case management through a network of 47 local service providers to help service members, veterans and their families navigate support systems and access services. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, HFMN has seen a surge in need for emergency financial assistance. This BWF grant will provide emergency financial assistance and case management to 18 veteran/military families, ensuring that they sustain housing, meet their basic needs, and are connected to additional services providing upstream support.  

HOPE Community Services

Veterans Program

In 2020, Mental Health America’s State of Mental Health in America ranked Oklahoma 41 out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., meaning Oklahoma has a high prevalence of mental illness in the population and low access to care. According to the VA’s National Veteran Suicide Prevention 2020 Annual Report, the veteran suicide rate in Oklahoma was higher per capita than both the national veteran suicide rate, and the total Oklahoma suicide rate. HOPE Community Services provides trauma- and recovery-focused mental health and substance abuse services to children, families, and adults in central Oklahoma. This NFL-BWF Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community (HLCC) grant will provide a combination of emergency rental assistance, mental health services, and peer recovery support to at least 100 veterans/military households living in central Oklahoma. This combination of services is important, because families struggling with homelessness cannot devote appropriate time to mental health services. These services will ensure that veterans and their families remain stably housed, experience a reduction in mental health symptoms, and persist in treatment.

Mental Health America of Los Angeles

Grocery Assistance for Veterans and their Families

Mental Health America of Los Angeles (MHALA) is dedicated to meeting the needs of Los Angeles County Veterans who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or were recently housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Within LA County, a combination of factors including housing costs and a limited housing supply make obtaining housing difficult, particularly for those with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. MHALA provides a range of supportive services to veteran families that are designed to promote housing stability, including funding to support food costs. With this BWF award, MHALA will provide financial assistance for food to at least 300 veterans and their families housed in emergency housing (such as hotels), as well as veterans who have transitioned from homelessness into permanent supportive housing. 

Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans

Emergency Housing Transition Program

People experiencing homeless face significant barriers to accessing food and have a higher risk of experiencing long-term food insecurity than the general population. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged traditional homeless services, while securing housing for people experiencing homeless has been a critical public health measure. The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) is the largest agency solely dedicated to serving veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Minnesota. MACV provides homeless prevention and intervention services, including legal counsel, employment services, case management, financial assistance, and transitional and supportive housing to help veterans achieve and sustain housing stability. This BWF grant will enable 42 veterans temporarily sheltered in hotels to transition to permanent housing by providing case management support and emergency financial assistance towards security deposits and first month’s rent. BWF funding will fill gaps in existing resources, ensuring that veterans who are ineligible for or experiencing a gap in federal and state benefits can secure and sustain long-term housing. 

United Way Long Island

Safe at Home for Veterans

United Way of Long Island focuses on serving the most vulnerable and at-risk individuals across Long Island. United Way of Long Island’s Mission United provides critical support to U.S. military veterans and their families on Long Island as they re-acclimate to civilian life. This support ranges from job training and employment assistance to emergency financial aid. Through their Mission United program, United Way specifically focuses on providing these services to the military-veteran population. The need for these services is particularly significant on Long Island as there are more than 95,000 veterans living in the area. With this BWF grant, United Way Long Island will decrease instances of hunger for at least 488 military/veteran households living in Long Island by providing financial assistance for food.

Move United

Strengthening and Expanding the USA Wheelchair Football League and Veteran Outreach Ambassador Program

Move United, a nationwide network of 120-plus community-based chapters operating in 42 states, provides disabled individuals independence and confidence through sports and educational programs. In 2020 Move United launched the first ever Wheelchair Football League, with support from an NFL-BWF Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community (HLCC) grant. The original teams are located in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Kansas City, Missouri. This NFL-BWF HLCC grant will enable Move United to expand the league into five new markets. This expansion will provide more veterans the opportunity to participate in wheelchair football across the country. This award supports team development, equipment, coaching and officials training, tournaments, and outreach. This award also supports Move United’s Virtual Leadership Conference, which is an important opportunity to teach instructors best practices for program administration and provide opportunities for hands-on, practical training exercises so that instructors can continue to provide safe, best-in-class adaptive sports opportunities in their communities.

Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center

Emergency Support for Veteran Families Impacted by COVID-19

Mt. Carmel serves military and veteran families in the Colorado Springs area, home to over 100,000 veterans, five military installations, and more than 35,000 active-duty service members. Each month an average of 400 troops in the Colorado Springs area transition out of the military and join the civilian population. Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center provides transition and employment assistance, behavioral health and wellness, supportive services, and connection to community resources to veterans, military members and their families. With this BWF grant, Mr. Carmel will improve the stability of at least 45 military/veteran households through a combination of intensive case management, housing assistance, and basic needs assistance.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation

Military Heroes Fund Emergency Financial Assistance Program

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of veterans surveyed by the Military Family Advisory Network indicating they had less than $500 in emergency savings, or no emergency savings at all. In January 2021, post-9/11 veteran unemployment was 6.3 percent, more than double what it was in December 2019. These pre-existing financial concerns, combined with the ongoing economic impact of COVID-19, leave low- and moderate-income veterans and military families particularly vulnerable to financial instability and crisis. Financial instability contributes to hunger and food insecurity, as many families choose between paying their rent and utilities or buying food. Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (PenFed) empowers veterans, service members, and their communities with the skills and resources to realize financial stability and opportunity. PenFed’s Military Heroes Fund Emergency Financial Assistance Program helps to prevent short-term emergencies from becoming long-term hardships by filling the income gap that many veterans face when waiting for disability or unemployment benefits, or when an unexpected medical bill or car repair impacts their budget. This BWF grant will provide emergency financial assistance to ensure that 20 post-9/11 veterans sustain housing and meet their basic needs.


Emergency Financial Assistance Program

SALUTE, INC. is dedicated to meeting the financial, physical and emotional needs of wounded, ill, and injured military service members, veterans and their families. SALUTE helps veterans and their families take control of their finances by providing emergency financial assistance towards housing costs, utility bills, car expenses, and food. This assistance complements emergency funding availability from government programs. With this BWF grant, SALUTE, Inc. will improve the stability of 50 military/veteran households through a combination of housing assistance and basic needs assistance.

San Antonio Food Bank

Food Relief for Veterans and Military Families

San Antonio is home to one of the largest concentrations of military bases in the United States, with four bases within the city: Randolph AFB, Lackland AFB, Fort Sam Houston, and Camp Bullis. San Antonio is also home to the Army’s largest medical center, Brooke Army Medical Center. As with many areas of the country, San Antonio’s has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Unfortunately, unemployment rates in San Antonio in December 2020 more than doubled from the year prior. With this BWF grant, San Antonio Food Bank will conduct twelve Pop Up Market Food distributions in collaboration with agencies that serve the active military and veteran populations in San Antonio to ensure that families have access to essential food items. These monthly pop-ups will decrease hunger for at least 3,000 military/veteran household. In conjunction with food distributions, San Antonio Food Bank will provide supplemental services including Nutrition Education information designed to assuage or mitigate nutrition related diseases, and federal benefits assistance such as SNAP, WIC, and CHIP. The Food Bank’s Workforce Development training and job placement programs will also be offered to all participants interested in rejoining the workforce or finding more meaningful employment.

Semper Fi Fund

Food Assistance for Wounded, Ill, and Injured Veterans

While our nation’s veterans and their families are facing many of the same challenges as other Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, their difficulties are often exacerbated by issues related to their military service. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as many as 40% of veterans and military families have experienced food insecurity. Food insecurity threatens the mental and physical health of our veterans, especially those with pre-existing conditions, such as physical disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and life-threatening illnesses. This BWF grant will support Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund’s emergency financial relief efforts to provide food and shelter assistance to 80 veteran households.

Support the Enlisted Project (STEP)

Emergency Financial Assistance Program and Drive-Thru Food Distributions

Support the Enlisted Project (STEP) builds financial self-sufficiency among junior active-duty enlisted members and recently discharged enlisted veterans and their families facing financial crisis through counseling, education, and grants. The families STEP serves are at risk of losing a basic necessity – their home, a vehicle, water, electricity, insurance – or they consistently run out of essentials, like food and baby diapers, before their next paycheck. STEP’s professional social workers provide one-on-one counseling with each client family, using a holistic approach to personal finance. Every client family leaves STEP with a better understanding of their financial situation and a personalized plan to achieve their goals. With this BWF grant, STEP will improve the stability of least 1,237 military/veteran households through a combination of their emergency financial assistance program and drive-thru food distributions.

Swords to Plowshares

Housing, Food, and Supportive Services for Veterans

Swords to Plowshares provides critically needed services to nearly 3,000 homeless and extremely low-income veterans each year. Almost half of the veterans they assist have service-connected disabilities, and many more are only one paycheck away from homelessness. The COVID-19 health crisis has increased the health, housing, employment, and food needs of these already-vulnerable veteran families. This BWF grant will ensure that services continue safely and permit Swords to Plowshares’ COVID-19 to serve and protect the 500 veteran residents in their supportive housing programs. The program will continue to provide 24/7 care in case of health crises or emergencies and will continue to offer in-person mental health services and meals for their transitional housing residents, employing social distancing and masks for safety during one-on-one sessions.

Tampa Crossroads, Inc.

Veteran’s Assistance Center Food and Transportation Assistance

Tampa Crossroads has over 40 years’ experience serving veterans in their community experiencing homelessness in Hillsborough County, Florida. However, a lack of transportation and food has become a significant barrier to veterans completing their programming and achieving stability and personal goals. Transportation to job interviews and professional training classes, to appointments for medical services, and/or to help them obtain proper identification and other necessary documentation is essential for veterans to achieve and maintain a stable, housed, life. Furthermore, many of the veterans in Tampa Crossroads’ care face challenges in accessing food, which leads to a high level of stress and decreased general health. This interferes with the ability to participate in and benefit fully from Tampa Crossroads’ programs. Unfortunately, most federal funding sources do not provide allowances for the purchase of bus passes and food. The goal of this grant, made possible with thanks to the Wells Fargo Foundation, is to provide bus passes and food assistance to 40 COVID-19 post-9/11 impacted veteran/military households who are enrolled in rapid rehousing programs, to ensure they have their basic needs met and maintain access to additional services. With this BWF funding, Tampa Crossroads will provide 1,600 days’ worth of food and almost 6,500 days of bus passes, to better serve  veterans at risk of homelessness. 

Technical Partnership of Arizona, for Arizona Coalition for Military Families

Be Connected: Comprehensive Community Connection

Arizona is home to over half a million veterans, service members, and their families. In the past year, Arizona has repeatedly had the highest COVID-19 case positivity rate in the world. Tribal communities in northern Arizona, including the Navajo and Hopi nations, have been hit especially hard. The Arizona Coalition for Military Families (ACMF) is a collective impact initiative, and a BWF Local Partner, working to build Arizona’s capacity to support veterans, service members, and their families statewide. ACMF began providing COVID-19 relief in 2020 with NFL-BWF support. Of the veterans referred to this program, 33 percent had experienced job loss, 27 percent had experienced housing insecurity, and 73 percent had difficulty meeting basic needs. This NFL-BWF Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community (HLCC) grant will provide financial relief and resource navigation to 200 veterans and their families living in Arizona, with a focus on rural, tribal, and underserved communities at high risk of adverse outcomes. Specifically, this funding will ensure that veterans and their families maintain access to basic needs such as housing, food, water, firewood, and transportation, and will connect them to resources to address ongoing needs.

The Mission Continues

Service Platoons and the 9/11 20th Anniversary United in Service Campaign

The Mission Continues (TMC) empowers veterans, addressing their need to serve and demonstrating their talent and skills to the local community while also improving local communities and increasing military-civilian understanding and appreciation. TMC’s Platoon Leaders are responsible for leading a team of service-minded veterans and community volunteers to make a lasting impact in their city. Many of The Mission Continues’ volunteer service platoon leaders have been economically, socially, and psychologically affected by COVID-19. This NFL-BWF Healthy Lifestyle and Creating Community (HLCC) grant will provide stipends to 28 Platoon Leaders so that they can continue to serve and grow as community leaders, create connections and service opportunities for veterans in the TMC network, and maximize their skills to drive change efforts in their local communities. Additionally, this grant will support TMCs 9/11 20th Anniversary United in Service Campaign as a “2021-2022 Visionary Partner for the Mission Continues”. In the months leading up to 9/11, this campaign will activate TMC in five cities for large scale service projects and community building demonstrating the talent and skills veterans offer to their community. The activation will also include events that highlight the value post-9/11 veterans offer to their community and share the experience of veterans since 9/11 both in uniform and at home.

Trustees of Purdue University

Military Family Research Institute: Reaching Rural Veterans

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as many as 40 percent of veterans and military families have experienced food insecurity. Veterans living in rural areas have lower incomes, are in poorer health, and are disproportionately likely to have service-connected disability ratings above 50 percent and experience substance abuse and mental health conditions compared to their urban counterparts. They also are at elevated risk for social isolation and loneliness, which in turn exacerbate health problems. The Reaching Rural Veterans program (RRV) addresses food insecurity among low-resource veterans and their families in rural areas. RRV uses food assistance through local food banks and pantries as a gateway to address other critical services, including behavioral health, housing security, and state and federal veterans’ benefits. This BWF grant will support the implementation and evaluation of the RRV program in eight rural Indiana counties. Specifically, this grant will reduce food insecurity for 500 veterans, and reduce social isolation and strengthen connections to services and benefits for at least 300 low-resource veterans living in rural areas. BWF funding will also enable the Military Family Research Institute to gather rigorous experimental evaluation data to validate program outcomes and develop an implementation manual for dissemination to future partners.

United Service Organizations (USO)

Fighting Food Insecurity

A 2019 Military Family Advisory Network study found that 9% of active-duty family members were experiencing food insecurity. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as many as 40% of veterans and military families have experienced food insecurity. The goal of USO emergency food programing relief is to provide as many meals as possible to service members and military families. With this BWF award, USO will decrease hunger for at least 2,000 military households monthly through a combination of food pantries, mobile farmers’ markets, mobile truck food service, mobile food delivery, and non-contact drive-thru pick up programming. This investment will support USO San Diego, USO Jacksonville, USO Great Lakes, USO South Texas, USO of Metropolitan New York, USO El Paso, USO Hawaii, and mobile USOs.

United Way Miami-Dade

Mission United- Warrior Resiliency Project

Florida is home to one of the largest populations of veterans in the nation; with 53,000 calling Miami-Dade County home. Many veterans report that getting re-socialized to civilian life is a top challenge; and that securing sustainable employment and reaching necessary resources are some of the biggest barriers to achieving financial stability. United Way of Miami-Dade’s Mission United program helps ease the transition to civilian life and addresses the unique needs of veterans during every transition. With this BWF grant, United Way Miami-Dade will decrease hunger and improve housing stability for 600 military/veteran households in the Miami-Dade area through food delivery and housing assistance.

UCLA Foundation

UCLA Meals Partnership Program

In collaboration with Village for Vets and the VA West Los Angeles (VA-WLA) Care and Rehabilitation Treatment Services (CTRS), the UCLA Meals Partnership Program (UMPP) uses the extra capacity of UCLA’s Housing & Hospitality (H&H) Dining Services to prepare and deliver nutritious and sustainable meals to homeless veterans on the VA-WLA. To decrease hunger and improve access to healthy food, UMPP will provide daily meals to food insecure veterans. This BWF grant will allow the UCLA Meals Partnership Program to provide: meals to the VA-WLA Care Treatment Rehabilitative Service tent camp, which is part of VA-WLA’s response to help keep homeless Veterans safe during the COVID-19 pandemic; nightly dinners to Safe Parking LA’s VA-WLA lot, a safe place for Veterans who live in their vehicles to park overnight; and sack lunches to locations across the VA-WLA campus. In total, this program will reach 10,000 homeless and food insecure veterans and provide over 54,000 meals.

Upper Peninsula Veterans Community Action Team (UP VCAT)

Food Distribution

The Upper Peninsula Veterans Community Action Team (UP VCAT) includes over 200 collaborative partners from federal, state, and county agencies, as well as local nonprofits and other organizations, to create a “no wrong door” support network for veterans and families. Though service providers are geographically dispersed across 15 counties, collaboration enables each service provider to function as an entry point to connect veterans and families with direct services as well as resources available via partner organizations. From a total estimated veteran population of 26,643 within the 15 counties of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, more than 5,000 are experiencing food insecurity. With this BWF grant, UP VCAT will decrease hunger for at least 940 military/veteran households in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by providing shelf stable food and gift cards for food.

Upstate Warrior Solution

Emergency COVID-19 Relief

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in January 2021, veteran unemployment rose to 5.5 percent, and that post-9/11 veteran unemployment rose from 5.1 to 6.3 percent. Of the half million unemployed veterans in January 2021, 74 percent have been unemployed for more than five weeks. Upstate Warrior Solution (UWS), a BWF local partner, has seen an increase in veterans experiencing financial hardship due to unplanned job and wage loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. UWS provides resource navigation and supportive services to service members, veterans, and their families in the Upstate of South Carolina. This BWF grant will provide a combination of housing, utility, and food assistance to at least 20 veteran/military families living in Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, and Spartanburg Counties, to mitigate financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Veterans Bridge Home

Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Communities

In June 2020, Veterans Bridge Home (VBH) assumed operational and fiscal management of the coordinated care system for veteran services across a majority of North Carolina, including the communities of Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh/Durham, and Ft.Bragg/Fayetteville. VBH now serves approximately 400,000 veterans and over 50,000 active duty service members in a single, aligned collaborative service ecosystem. This NFL-BWF Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Communities grant will support the expansion of NCServes’ network to 45 counties, onboarding 150 service organization partners into the collaborative to serve 2,500 veterans. The increased capacity across these communities will permit VBH to satisfy the unique health and human service needs of veteran and military families and connect veterans to services that impact how veterans live, work, play and ultimately thrive in their community.

Veterans Legal Institute

Virtual Veterans Pro Bono Legal Clinics

Southern California has been the epicenter of COVID-19 outbreak on the west coast. A Bloomberg article from March 2021 identified the Los Angeles metro area as among the cities where life has been hardest for residents. Recognizing early that the pandemic would change the way business needs to conducted, Veterans Legal Institute turned all in-person operations to remote overnight so free legal aid could continue without interruption. Their foresight allowed them to continue to meet the needs of their veteran clients who are facing legal issues threatening their ability to remain housed, access public resources including healthcare and income, and work due to barriers affecting their employability. This BWF grant will support virtual clinics that provide legal services to remove barriers to housing, employment, education, and healthcare.

Veterans Legal Services

Medical-Legal Partnership Expansion

The “justice gap” in America, defined as the difference between low-income individuals’ need for civil legal aid and the resources available to them, is significant. A 2017 study out of the University of Chicago found that only 14% of poor and low-income Americans receive adequate civil legal assistance. Homeless veterans, of which there are more than 900 throughout Massachusetts, routinely rank legal assistance among their greatest unmet needs. While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of life, it has disproportionately brutalized those who are economically disadvantaged as well as those living with physical and/or mental disabilities. Veterans Legal Services partners directly with veterans service organizations, including VAMCs, in the Greater Boston area to provide civil legal aid.  In doing so, Veteran Legal Services addresses the diverse needs of at-risk veterans, including the many who suffer physical and mental disabilities from their military service. This BWF grant will enable Veterans Legal Services to strengthen their capacity and further their reach to meet the growing demand for civil legal aid in the areas of housing stabilization/eviction prevention, access to medical services, and benefit acquisition.

Veterans Yoga Project

Mindful Resilience for Compassion Fatigue

Veterans Yoga Project (VYP) is dedicated to supporting recovery and resilience among veterans, active duty military members, families, and communities. During the pandemic, VYP is supporting veterans as well as the caregivers and clinicians who struggle with compassion fatigue, or “burn out,” as they care for veterans. This NFL-BWF Healthy Lifestyle and Creating Community (HLCC) grant will fund Veterans Yoga Project to provide three 15-person cohorts (45 individuals total) with the 7-week, Mindful Resilience for Compassion Fatigue (MRCF) program. MRCF is a new program, which VYP implemented in June 2020, for veterans and caregivers of veterans. The class meets weekly over Zoom for 7 weeks and focuses on the tools of self care and the processing of trauma, as well as witnessed trauma of others. In addition to live sessions, students are given access to a six-module eLearning program, which VYP released in 2020. VYP designed MRCF specifically to take the mindful resilience work that is done on the yoga mat and incorporate it more fully into the daily lives of these individuals.

West Texas Counseling & Guidance

Evidence-Based Care and Hunger Relief for Uninsured Veterans

The two main offices of West Texas Counseling & Guidance (WTCG) are located near areas specifically cited in BWF’s research paper, “Veterans and COVID-19: Projecting the Economic, Social, and Mental Health Needs of America’s Veterans,” as facing significant economic impact due to the pandemic. The continued economic impact of COVID-19, coupled with new and ongoing mental health needs, have increased the need for resources such as hunger relief and quality mental health care. With this BWF grant, West Texas Counseling and Guidance will provide evidence-based mental therapy, case management, and grocery gift cards.  This program will improve mental health outcomes and address hunger for 225 military/veteran households while also working towards establishing food security.

Employment and Education

Bunker Labs

Launch Lab Online

250,000 military service members transition out of the military every year.  Nearly 25 percent of those transitioning express a desire to start a business, yet only 4.5 percent of post-9/11 veterans currently do so. The Launch Lab Online program’s core goals are that members of the military community who are interested in entrepreneurship will be empowered to assess whether entrepreneurship is the right path for them at this time in their life, determine if their business idea is viable, understand the steps they need to complete to start generating revenue, and navigate to relevant resources and opportunities to support their business or their non-entrepreneurial personal/professional goals. These goals are achieved online in a supportive community of military-connected entrepreneurs from across the country. This NFL-BWF Salute to Service grant will expand the resources available through the program and refine the content on Launch Lab Online to equip 1,600 military veterans, active-duty service members, military spouses, and caregivers with tools to make informed decisions about their professional future and to navigate next steps and resources to achieve success whether they pursue entrepreneurship now or at a later date.

HVAF of Indiana

Veteran Employment Program

The 2020 annual one-night count of people experiencing homeless in Marion County, IN identified 205 veterans accounting for 16% of the entire homeless population in the county. According to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, the true estimate of the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Marion County annually is three to five times the Point-In-Time count, meaning approximately 600-1000 veterans experienced homelessness in Indianapolis in 2020. HVAF of Indiana uses a holistic approach to serve veterans experiencing homelessness or at-risk of becoming homeless, including flexible funding to ensure veterans with high barriers to employment have every resource necessary to find employment. This NFL-BWF grant will provide education, training, work-related items, and case management for 35 post-9/11 veterans to secure full-time employment.

Working Wardrobes for a New Start

VetNet – A Safety Net for Veterans

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting increase in unemployment has intensified the challenges veterans face finding work. The September 2020 unemployment rate in Orange County was 9.0%, representing a 247% increase over the past 12 months. Many of the lost jobs employed a large number of veterans in sectors hard hit by COVID-19 including hospitality, travel, food service, retail, and entertainment. Working Wardrobes’ VetNet – A Safety Net for Veterans program provides veterans and veteran spouses with job training and supportive services that help them reintegrate into civilian life, use skills gained through their military service, secure and maintain employment, and achieve economic self-sufficiency and success.