WEST ALLIS — Heading into Memorial Day Weekend, the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative distributed about 1,200 boxes of food to families.
The organization primarily focuses on helping veterans in need, but opened up Friday's food distribution to the entire community because of the amount it received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers to Families Food Box program.
The Farmers to Families program started during the COVID-19 pandemic as an emergency relief effort to help those in need. The program ends at the end of the month, and has distributed more than 170 million boxes across the country. Each box has staples like milk, meat and vegetables.
Keith Arata was one of the volunteers helping out on Friday. Arata is an Air Force veteran and now helps the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative as a warehouse associate.
"I like to see some of the other veterans get help," Arata said. "This is a good organization to help them out with their food or their housing."
Debbie Buchanan, the organization's executive director, said there's a sense of camaraderie among the volunteers.
"My favorite part about what's going on today is we have veterans that are here helping other veterans and the broader community. I think we all snap back into our basic training. We get these lines together and we're passing boxes to each other. And just people coming up and saying how grateful they are," Buchanan said.
The organization also provides other support for veterans in need including clothing, home essentials, and emergency food pantry and other services.