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More military hungry

New studies highlight the issue

A recent report notes that one in five military families were experiencing food insecurity. Photo credit: Courtesy JBLM

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For many military families, food insecurity is a daily issue. In a recently released report by the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), researchers found that one in five military families were experiencing food insecurity, a rise from one in eight just two years ago.

"The Causal Factors of Military and Veteran Family Food Insecurity Report is a first-of-its-kind qualitative study that illuminates the challenges those who serve face every day when attempting to put food on the table," MFAN reported.

The study's findings coincide with the June 7, 2022 policy brief launch of a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

During a panel discussion, it was noted that researchers at Syracuse University reported that 30% of veterans and 39% of active-duty respondents said they needed more food and nutrition resources.

"The notion that (our veterans, active service members and their families) struggle with putting food on the table, I find offensive and it shouldn't happen," said Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass), chair of the House Hunger Caucus.

"Military families should be paid enough to not need food assistance."

He added that food insecurity among the ranks is not only a question of budget priorities, it is also a political choice.

"We have the food and the resources, what we lack is the political will," continued McGovern.  He noted that part of the problem centers on the algorithms used to determine the pay rates of military personnel.

"The data is sometimes flawed in how we set things up," explained Col. Christopher Reid, a Military Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). "A lot of the form fitting that we had done across the nation and world doesn't fit every site like it should." 

He added that the algorithms are supposed to be tied to national mean averages of different communities, but that challenges like inflation, housing market increases and economic differences across the country make this difficult.

The report also found that families of color on active duty are two times more apt to experience food insecurity than white, non-Hispanic active-duty families. It emphasized that if the nation wants a strong national defense, it must ensure that service members and their families are treated fairly.

"If you want your soldiers to be ready to fight ... they can't be worried about their families back home," added Col. Danielle Ngo, a Military Fellow at CSIS.

"If the soldier's family is taken care of then the soldier is taken care of."

Ngo also pointed out that on-base housing is not available to all that want it and that some military families have to live off-base. As a result, these families often lack access to inexpensive and healthy meals.

The report concluded that food insecurity is also associated with mental health challenges, including suicidal ideation and service members leaving the Army.

"We owe it to those who serve our country to make sure they're not going hungry," said Representative McGovern.

"This should not be a radical idea."

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