Imagine that your love of country inspired you to enlist in the military. Imagine that you have spent years getting up before the sun and enduring grueling training. Imagine that you are deployed overseas, away from loved ones, for months on end. And imagine that while doing all of this you struggled to put food on the table for your family. This is the unacceptable reality that tens of thousands of United States military members and their families face.
A recent survey of military households found that 90,000 people serving in the United States military were worried about having enough food to feed themselves and their families. On this Veteran’s Day, it is critical to shine a light on this persistent issue – and the tools we have to bring about change.
What causes military hunger?
There are a multitude of factors that contribute to food insecurity among service members and their families, including:
- Low salaries for enlisted members,
- High rates of unemployment for military spouses due to the transitory nature of the military;
- High cost of living near many military bases across the country;
- High costs of childcare; and
- The stigma that is often associated with needing assistance to provide for one’s family.
Grocery prices spiking during the pandemic and economic downturn has compounded the challenge of having enough to eat for far too many military families.
What are the consequences of military hunger?
Food insecurity amongst military families is not just a moral issue – it serves as a national security threat as well. Food insecurity is linked to negative impacts on overall health, contributing to weight gain and chronic disease. As a result, compromised military readiness is of high concern, as the Center for Disease Control estimates 1 in 4 young adults are too heavy to serve in the military, and poor nutrition leads to less endurance and physical ability crucial for military members.
How can our lawmakers fight military hunger?
The brave Americans who wear our country’s uniform make sacrifices every day. We have an obligation to ensure they do not worry about whether they can feed themselves and their families. Food banks across the country are stepping up to feed military members and their families on and off base – but food banks cannot work alone.
To meet the immediate needs of military families, Feeding America urges Congress to adopt legislation this year that would create a Military Family Basic Needs Allowance to provide much-needed support to servicemembers who are struggling most to provide for their families. However, this is only a first step. Our elected officials must work together – and in partnership with Pentagon leadership, military family advocates, and other stakeholders – to achieve a long-term solution to address the underlying factors that contribute to food insecurity in the military.