U.S. Hunger Commission Adopts MAZON Recommendations

Only Report Recommendations on Ending Hunger in the Military

LOS ANGELES -- The bi-partisan, Congressionally appointed National Commission on Hunger issued its final report on Monday, concluding that “Hunger is a significant problem that has serious health, education and workforce consequences for our nation.”

The Commission, appointed by Congress in 2014, spent more than a year traveling to several US cities and talking with leaders from government and non-profit organizations as well as local citizens. 

Charged with finding recommendations for Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to end and alleviate food insecurity, the Commission report includes three major recommendations provided to them last fall in testimony by Mia Hubbard, Vice President of Programs at MAZON: A Jewish Response To Hunger, a leading national anti-hunger advocacy organization with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.  MAZON works to change governmental and institutional policies that allow systemic hunger to persist in the U.S.  While MAZON addresses all aspects of hunger policies, the MAZON recommendations adopted by the Commission are those for ending hunger in the military, an issue that has been a priority for MAZON’s advocacy efforts the last several years.

“This is a huge step forward and we are proud that this bi-partisan commission recognizes that there are significant food insecurity challenges facing currently serving military personnel and veterans“ says Abby J. Leibman, President and CEO of MAZON.   “It is truly gratifying that the Commission adopted our recommendations as an initial step forward to ending hunger for these families and individuals.”

The MAZON recommendations are the only Commission recommendations concerning military hunger.  Military hunger issues are so deep that there are food pantries on military bases across the country, a situation MAZON finds immoral and outrageous, especially given the sacrifices these families and individuals make for our country.

The MAZON recommendations as presented in the report are:

Support the well being of families that have members who serve or have served in the U.S. Military.

Families with an active duty service member should have as much support as possible to stay healthy, well-nourished, and financially stable while their family member serves to protect our country. Likewise, veterans who have served our country should not have to struggle to put food on the table for themselves and their families.

There is a particular policy issue that restricts some SNAP-eligible active duty military families from qualifying for SNAP* benefits. For families living off base or in privatized on-base housing, the Basic Allowance for Housing is counted as income in the determination of eligibility for SNAP and may prevent or reduce eligibility for SNAP. However, the Basic Allowance for Housing is currently excluded as income for calculating income taxes and eligibility for other government programs, including WIC. The Basic Allowance for Housing is also counted as income in determining eligibility for the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance, a program administered by the Department of Defense that operates somewhat in parallel to SNAP and was created to move military families off of SNAP.

Finally, data on food security and SNAP participation among members of the military on active duty, veterans, and their families are not readily available.

Action Items:
Congress should enact legislation to exclude the Basic Allowance for Housing as income for the determination of SNAP eligibility and benefit levels for families who have an active duty service member.

Congress should direct the Department of Defense to undertake a comprehensive review of the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance program and recommend reforms that are directed at improving food security in active duty military families.

In keeping with our country’s priority of national security, the USDA should work jointly with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to help with collecting data on food security, its causes and consequences, and SNAP participation among active duty military and veterans, and make this data available to Congress, the President, and to the public at regularly specified intervals.

*Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, i.e., food stamps (MAZON)