According to the The Military Family Advisory Network which has been tracking the issues of food insecurity and hunger in the military community for years. "Our research consistently shows that military families have been quietly struggling with food insecurity. In 2019, 1 in 8 of our national survey respondents was experiencing food insecurity. That number rose to 1 in 5 in some parts of the country, such as Washington state. The COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded the issue of food insecurity among military families.
Why is this important?
Here’s why: thousands of military connected children (and that’s just the active duty connected kids going to DoDEA schools) It means that there are military children who are living in potentially food insecure homes.
What does it mean to be food insecure?
Essentially, it means that families are not able to buy a wide variety of foods in the quantities needed to feed their families. So families might be able to buy enough food to feed their families, but that food is low quality or heavily processed. No fresh fruits or veggies on a regular basis, or lots of macaroni and cheese. Or families might not be able to afford enough food to totally feed themselves. It could mean skipping meals for one or more people in a family.
Too many military and veteran families are facing this challenge, skipping meals, making difficult choices between buying food or other essential items, and leaning on food pantries, churches, and family members for support when times are particularly tough.
SNAP, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is intended to help low-income families buy food and keep their loved ones fed. More than 20,000 military families are included in the numbers of those who need SNAP to make ends meet. SNAP works on a need-based system where the applicant’s income is reviewed. SNAP is approved or denied on that basis. One of the flaws of this program, at least where military communities are concerned, is the way that income is calculated using both military base pay and certain non-taxable allowances. The BAH payments military members receive for living off-base and in the local community are considered an entitlement for military service. SNAP adds the BAH as “income” rather than a military subsidized housing allowance. If your BAH and base pay are combined, it’s entirely possible to be denied SNAP assistance because the military family “earns too much money.”
In a recent article in *Military times
‘A national outrage’: Lawmakers seek solutions to food insecurity in military, veteran families “ ~Across America today, there are spouses and children of service members who may not know where their next meal is coming from,” said Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern, D-Mass. “And for too many men and women who served our nation and are back in the civilian community, they and their families are struggling to put food on the table. The percentage of those experiencing food insecurity was highest in the E1-E4 respondents, at 29 percent. 14 percent of active-duty enlisted family member respondents to the online 2020 Blue Star Family Lifestyle Survey said they had food insecurity within the past 12 months, according to the organization’s CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet.
This means that not only are many thousands of active duty troops facing food insecurity, but so are military veterans. These numbers account for just the individual veterans and currently serving troops. It doesn’t show their spouses or children.
It’s Not OK
It’s not okay that we have military personnel who are unable to put enough food on their tables. The people who are defending our freedoms at home can’t feed themselves on what they are being paid.
It’s not okay that our veterans are struggling to put afford to eat. These men and women sacrificed years of their lives, and possibly limbs or mental health, to protect us. And now they are hungry. Their spouses and children are hungry.
A great step would be to support action requiring the DoD to actually track the numbers of military personnel who use SNAP or other food benefits. Having this data could help to drive changes in military compensation, benefits and awareness of the issue. Contacting your Senators or Representatives to advocate for this would be a great first step.
Finally, support food pantries in military communities or near Guard or Reserve posts. By having well stocked options available, military families will be better able to provide for their families.