At least160.000 active-duty military members are having trouble feeding their families and struggle with food insecurity in a hidden crisis that has existed for years – and only worsened during the COVID pandemic – in one of the most well-funded institution in the world.
There is a lack of formal study, but according to the estimates of Feeding America, that coordinates the activities of over 200 food banks in the US, the long-term food insecurity is well extended into the military and primarily affects junior-level enlisted service members.
Feeding America’s government relations officer Vince Hall stressed that it’s a shocking truth many food banks across the US are familiar with, which, according to Illinois Democrat Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an army vet himself, should be the cause of deep embarrassment for, as he says, ‘the mightiest military on the face of the earth’.
Service members with ranks E1 to E4 in military parlance that also have with children, often rely on food assistance to keep them fed since, on top of the modest pay for junior enlisted ranks, their military spouses are having trouble finding steady job due to the frequent moves.
Add to that their reluctance to speak about their difficulties for fear they’ll be regarded as irresponsible due to the internal military culture of self-sufficiency, and the vicious circles closes.
To make things worse, an obscure rule of the Agriculture Department prevents thousands military families in need from accessing food stamps – the SNAP government assistance program.
The issue has arisen in2008 with the Food and Nutrition Act dictating that the Basic Allowance for Housing that families living outside the base grounds receive to cover most of their costs, counts as income when calculating SNAP benefits eligibility.
That usually ends up disqualifying thousands of military families though the same allowance doesn’t count as income for tax reasons or for WIC benefits.
The severity of the problem is best illustrated by the fact that the Armed Services YMCA and Blue Star Families, part of massive network of military-adjacent charitable organizations, are developing food banks infrastructure near most major bases in the United States.