What’s at Stake?
In 2020, nearly a quarter (24%) of active-duty service members were food insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.i Junior enlisted service members were at the highest risk of experiencing food insecurity.
Service members often face distinct challenges that make it difficult to access the food they need to thrive, including limited income, a high cost of living and other financial commitments.ii Frequent mandatory moves, occupational licensing issues for military spouses and the low pay scale for enlisted members also contribute to military food insecurity.
Food insecurity in the military ranks can cause health issues for service members and negatively impact military readiness.
The brave individuals who wear our country’s uniform make sacrifices every day. We have an obligation to ensure they do not have to worry about whether they can keep food on the table. Food banks across the country are stepping up to support military members and their families on and off base. But to end military hunger, we urge the federal government to take additional, crucial steps to better support our troops.
- Some of the factors that can make it hard for members of the military to afford sufficient food for themselves and their families include low salaries for enlisted members, high rates of unemployment for military spouses due to the transitory nature of the military, the high cost of living near many military bases across the country and the high cost of child care.
- Nearly half of the students at Department of Defense schools in the U.S. were eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the 2014-15 school year.iii
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility is determined differently for service members who live on a military base and those who live off base. When active-duty military members live off base, they receive a housing stipend—the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)—from the Department of Defense. The amount of money the BAH provides is based on housing costs in the locality where they live.iv When factored into the SNAP eligibility calculation, the financial benefit provided by the BAH disqualifies many service members from receiving SNAP benefits.
- In 2019, less than 2% of active-duty service members lived in households that received SNAP benefits, despite high rates of food insecurity among this population.v
What’s Feeding America Doing?
We are calling on Congress to address military hunger in the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by including provisions that expand eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance.
Congress should expand the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) by including in the final NDAA:
- The House-passed provision that excludes the Basic Allowance for Housing from the gross income calculation for BNA eligibility.
- The Senate provision that extends BNA eligibility to households making less than 150% of the federal poverty level (an increase from the current 130% threshold).
i. Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel & Readiness, U.S. Department of Defense. “Strengthening Food Security in the Force: Strategy and Roadmap.“ July 2022. https://media.defense.gov/2022/Jul/14/2003035423/-1/-1/1/STRENGTHENING-FOOD-SECURITY-IN-THE-FORCE-STRATEGY-AND-ROADMAP.PDF.
ii. Blue Star Families. “Military Family Lifestyle Survey.” 2020. https://www.bluestarfam.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/BSF_MFLS_CompReport_FULL.pdf.
iii. Government Accountability Office. “MILITARY PERSONNEL DOD Needs More Complete Data on Active-Duty Servicemembers’ Use of Food Assistance Programs.” July 2016. http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678474.pdf.
v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Military and Veteran Families.” Accessed on October 7, 2022. https://www.fns.usda.gov/military-and-veteran-families.