Military families struggling with food insecurity

Some in the military worry how they’re going to feed their families, according to new data that shows just how widespread the problem is. It could impact our national defense and security.

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Data from the Department of Defense shows 24 percent of active duty military -- the people who serve our country -- have experienced some sort of food insecurity in the last year. That’s about one in every four.

“It means that you’re worried about where your next meal might come from,” Shannon Razsadin, President and Executive Director of the Military Family Advisory Network, said. “It’s something that whenever we talk about it, it catches people off guard. People don’t realize it. People assume that if you’re in the military you’re taken care of, but the reality is that families in some cases are struggling and they’re having a hard time making ends meet.”

There are several factors that contribute to this problem. The military often moves families every 2.5 years, which could mean a lot of out-of-pocket expenses. It’s also hard for spouses to get jobs for extra income when they’re constantly leaving.

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“It just shouldn’t happen, and we need to make sure there are systems and support in place for families, so they don’t have to decide which bills they’re going to pay at the end of the money, if they’re going to pay their rent or if they’re going to pay for groceries,” Razsadin said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recently sent a memo with the subject -- “Taking care of our service members and families.” He wrote this is a “readiness issue.” The memo said to help they’re planning a pay increase for service members and working to cut prices at the commissaries that sell groceries.

Watch: Military housing problems

Finding a solution isn’t only about doing the right thing for those who serve. It could impact our national defense and security.

“When you think about people who are deployed or in mission-critical roles, they’re not going to be able to focus on the job at hand, if your family is back home worried if they can put food on the table,” Razsadin added.

Over the last year and a half, MFAN has distributed about 1.4 million meals to these families. Advocates have held the biggest events where the need is the greatest, including distribution at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

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You can find more on MFAN’s efforts to combat military food insecurity here.

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