Lance Corporal James Poggi helped to land a malfunctioning helicopter in Afghanistan in 2010. “One of the procedures we follow in that situation is if the landing gear is hung up, we land the helicopter on mattresses,” he said. “We didn’t have anything to tie the mattresses to the runway, so we stacked them on a trailer.” When the helicopter touched down, the trailer was pushed back, knocking James over and causing nerve damage. Once he returned from the Marines, his condition worsened.

Doctors determined that James had spinal meningitis. After six weeks of inpatient treatment, he was released. When the treatment was over, James could no longer use his left foot. Unable to work and still in a lot of pain, he could not support his wife, Stefanie, and their two young children. Stefanie became his full-time caregiver, receiving a small stipend from the state – but the family still struggled to make ends meet.

The Poggi family applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Receiving SNAP helps Stefanie buy fresh produce and other healthy food for her family. SNAP also helps the Poggi family avoid some difficult decisions.

“If we didn’t get SNAP benefits, our gas, water and electric would all be shut off,” Stefanie says.

To fill the gap at the end of the month when their SNAP benefits have been spent, the family visits the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital food pantry. In addition to food, the volunteers at the pantry provide a positive atmosphere that the family appreciates. “It’s a stress reliever,” James says.

With these resources to help feed his family, James can focus on the year of physical therapy he has ahead. His goal is to walk again.

“The doctors are confident I’ll be able to do it,” he says. “I know I can.”

The Poggi family’s story is also featured in the From Hungry to Hopeful™ campaign.