Combatting Military Hunger
Military hunger is a bigger battle than you may expect. Nationally, an estimated 325,000 active military members seek food assistance. Add in family members and veterans, and that number skyrockets. Members of the military make enough sacrifices already.
At the Maryland Food Bank, we believe it’s our duty to ensure military members and their families have access to nutritious food through a variety of programs. Unfortunately, current laws place unnecessary barriers on food-insecure military members, making them ineligible for government food assistance like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) because their Basic Allowance for Housing is counted as income. This equation can elevate their household income above the eligibility line for the program, forcing them to seek other ways to feed themselves and their families.
Military Hunger on the Hill
To address the persistence of military hunger from a congressional perspective, U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth, Lisa Murkowski, and Tom Udall proposed The Military Hunger Prevention Act. This bill would exclude the value of housing allowance in determining eligibility for any federal program issuing benefits for nutrition assistance, including SNAP, clearing the way for service members to enroll.
But ensuring military families can access needed and available federal food assistance programs is just one way of resolving this issue. “While we fully support legislative efforts to shorten the line for hungry servicemen and servicewomen, we will continue to do what we do best — get food to those in need as quickly as possible,” said Tim Regan, MFB’s vice president of programs and network relations.
How MFB Fights Military Hunger
Here in Maryland, MFB has been combatting food insecurity on and near local military bases through Pantry on the Go (POTG) events since 2010. During that time, we’ve distributed more than 600,000 pounds of food to approximately 14,000 military members and their families through mobile pantries that take place at sites like Whittier Elementary School, outside of Fort Detrick Alliance in Frederick.
“Knowing how fixed the military salary is and how high the cost of fresh foods is, we decided to contact the Maryland Food Bank to see if they could help,” said Mike Dickson, site coordinator of a POTG event at Ft. Detrick. “With their support, we were able to connect with veterans of war, too, and provide for their families, also.”
In 2013, USAA Federal Savings Bank stepped up to help expand our efforts even further, providing grant funding to support additional POTG distribution events near military bases that help active-duty members and their families.
Combatting Military Hunger
This year, USAA has awarded MFB a three-year $225,000 grant dedicated to helping veterans as well. This important expansion will allow us to explore new partnerships with veteran-focused locations across the state. For example, we recently formed a partnership with the Baltimore County Randallstown Recreation Center, an effort that will help us connect veterans to both food assistance and employment resource workshops. “We’re dedicated to doing everything we can to assist the military in helping them ‘take care of their own,’” Regan noted.
Ensuring Nutrition is Uniform for All
While Pantry on the Go events break down some barriers to food access, your support allows us to help these brave individuals on several fronts. Children in military families may qualify for free and reduced-price meal programs at their on-base schools or child development centers, or at nearby off-base schools. We supplement these breakfasts and lunches through our School Pantry Program, at places like Meade Middle School in Ft. Meade — can take home groceries to their families as needed.
Eligible veterans in Baltimore City can get help through MFB’s My Groceries to Go! Program. A partnership with the Maryland Department of Aging allows us to provide low-income seniors with a monthly supply of healthy foods each month in established locations such as senior centers and apartment buildings.
No one who serves our country should have to struggle to survive on the home front as well. We are proud to be able to help military servicemembers meet their most basic need when it comes to feeding their families and will continue to do what we can to help them combat hunger.
Salute the troops by making sure they have consistent access to food by sponsoring a Pantry on the Go event or donating.
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