ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md.- People often look to the United States as a country of great wealth and prosperity, but even in America, there are those who lack the funds and resources to take care of their basic needs.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, approximately 10.5 percent of American households were food insecure before the COVID-19 pandemic, which means they do not have enough money to cover the entire cost of food for themselves and/or their families on a consistent basis.

“Food insecurity means that a person is lacking the economic means to access enough food,” said Dr. Matthew Rabbitt, a research economist at the USDA.

It is often said that the U.S. Army is a microcosm of American society—this means that issues that are seen in the general population are also seen in the Army. The same goes for food insecurity. According to an article recently published in the Journal of Nutrition, 1 in 3 Soldiers are food insecure and may use such resources as food banks to supplement meals for themselves and their families.

Food distribution
Soldiers from the 1433rd Engineer Company (SAPPER), 507th Engineer Battalion, 177th Military Police Brigade, Michigan Army National Guard, assist the Feeding America West Michigan food bank as part of the Michigan National Guard's coronavirus 19 disease (COVID-19) response, Comstock Park, Michigan. The Michigan Guard Soldiers assisted by packing food boxes for distribution for those in need. (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. David Eichaker, U.S. Army ) VIEW ORIGINAL

Particularly over the past year, many military spouses of junior and/or lower-income Army personnel have reported looking to government food assistance programs, as COVID-19 layoffs caused many families to lose their jobs due to slow economic growth.

“There are other reasons that contribute to this issue, too,” said Joanna Reagan, a public health nutritionist at the Army Public Health Center. “Some lower-income Soldiers have more financial issues and, additionally, families with one income who have small children often struggle to make ends meet.’

Army public health experts offer a few recommendations to address food insecurity.

“Leaders should talk to their Soldiers and make sure that their basic needs are provided for,” said Reagan.” “It’s important we reduce the stigma surrounding food insecurity, and let Soldiers know what resources are available to them. Programs like Army Emergency Relief Services and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program offer great resources for Soldiers who are eligible.”

Army public health scientists say that addressing food insecurity can reap direct benefits for the military.

“Our research demonstrates that food insecurity is directly tied to poor mental health outcomes,” said Dr. Matthew Beymer, an epidemiologist at APHC.  “Thus, food insecurity is both a public health and a readiness issue. If we fix this issue, we can benefit our Soldiers and our Army.”

To read the entire article in the Journal of Nutrition, visit this website: https://academic.oup.com/jn/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jn/nxab089/6274933?searchresult=1

For more information on food resources for military families, visit:

·        U.S. Dept of Agriculture Military and Veterans Families: https://www.fns.usda.gov/military-and-veteran-families

·        Feeding America: https://www.feedingamerica.org/

·        Farmer’s Markets and Community Supported Agriculture: https://www.nutrition.gov/topics/shopping-cooking-and-meal-planning/farmers-markets

·        Feds Feed Families –a government-wide campaign which encourages federal employee to give to food banks and pantries: www.fedsfeedfamilies.ocio.usda.gov

·        Army Community Resource Guide: https://crg.amedd.army.mil