Progress and Perseverance: MAZON Continues to Lead Solutions to Military Hunger
For over a decade, MAZON has been urging the U.S. Department of Defense to acknowledge and address food insecurity among military families. We have sent countless letters, met with hundreds of policymakers, testified before numerous congressional committees, released a comprehensive report, crafted commonsense policy solutions, and built consensus among Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, military and veteran service organizations, and the anti-hunger community. And now, finally, it seems like Pentagon leadership is starting to pay attention.
In November 2021, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a press conference where he called for an agency review of food insecurity among military families. This marked a sea change with the Pentagon publicly acknowledging the shameful fact that military families across the country are struggling with hunger. Then last month, the Defense Department released its report, Strengthening Food Security in the Force: Strategy and Roadmap. While the report is underwhelming in some regards, it is meaningful to see the highest levels of Pentagon leadership support recommendations that MAZON and our partners have been advocating for years.
In the report, the Department of Defense notes that a shocking 24% of all active-duty service members recently experienced some level of food insecurity. This is clearly a matter of mission readiness, troop retention, and future military recruitment. We know that military families face unique challenges related to spousal unemployment, frequent relocation, and persistent stigma and shame that exists around acknowledging they are food insecure and applying for programs like SNAP.
Let’s be clear — military families cannot wait for more data collection, reporting, or committee investigations. Food pantries operate on or near every military installation in this country, which provides all the evidence we need. Now Congress and the Biden Administration must take urgent action to:
- Remove unnecessary barriers to SNAP and ensure that military families are able to access nutrition benefits;
- Improve the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) so that it provides as much support as possible to all those who need it; and
- Center military hunger at the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.
We are making significant progress, but there is much work ahead. With nearly one quarter of military families struggling to put food on the table, MAZON is deeply proud of our expertise and our leadership to craft and advance meaningful solutions to end this injustice. Please learn more and join us today.