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Calgary family starts campaign to make sure war vets don’t go hungry

Compelled to ensure local veterans never go hungry, a Calgary family has launched its own food drive to gather donations for Calgary’s Veterans’ Food Bank.

Jeff Melcher has always had a strong connection to the military.

He watched his brother spend 25 years in the service, doing four tours of duty and returning a changed man.

When he spotted a food hamper collecting donations for veterans during a visit to the Military Museums a few years ago, Melcher said he had to do something to help.

"I had no idea there was any sort of need or call for food for veterans," Melcher said.

The Veterans’ Food Bank is operated by the Calgary Poppy Fund through public donations, said Calgary Poppy Fund director George Bittman.

"When I started in 2005, we were issuing 16 (food) hampers a month. Today, we’re issuing 70 food hampers a month," he said.

"When I started, we were giving $50 a month for fresh produce, meats and dairy products. It’s $250 today with each hamper.

"The demand has increased dramatically."

The food bank keeps its shelves stocked through annual food drives, including one being launched in conjunction with the Crown Surplus store in Inglewood and local schools.

Food can be dropped off for this fourth-annual veterans and seniors food drive at participating schools and the military surplus store during the first two weeks of November.

After visiting the food bank earlier this year, Melcher started his own private food drive, putting up posters and talking to neighbours and friends.

He and his wife picked up groceries from people donating all over the city and delivered 21/2 pallets of food for Thanksgiving.

Melcher said the need is so great, he’s decided to hold another private food drive for the veterans’ food bank again this month.

"The biggest thing for me is these people are willing to give up their lives for Canada. I start to think ‘What can Canada do for them,’ " he said.

"It was heartbreaking (to) walk in and see the vets at the food bank. They’re very proud people. I know there is a need for this."

Anyone interested in helping Melcher’s food drive can e-mail him at calgaryveterans @ hotmail.com.

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