At Fort Wadsworth, MAZON and Military Family Advocates, Sen. Gillibrand Call Military Hunger ‘Unconscionable’
MAZON and the nation’s largest grass-roots military family support organization Blue Star Families joined Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sept. 11 first responder and veterans’ rights activist John Feal today in demanding national policies that end hunger in the military.
The advocates and policymakers met with military families at the Staten Island Food Closet located on Fort Wadsworth, then they participated in a press conference calling for bold solutions to address the crisis of military hunger. Among the policy solutions were several measures outlined in MAZON’s groundbreaking 2021 report, “Hungry in the Military: Food Insecurity Among Military Families in the U.S.”
Josh Protas, MAZON’s Vice President of Public Policy, said that “addressing hunger among military families is about troop readiness, military retention, and future recruitment. Grounded in our Jewish values, we at MAZON believe that no one deserves to be hungry — regardless of circumstance. There is a food pantry like the Staten Island Food Closet at every military base in the country, and they provide vital emergency resources for military families who need help. But the charitable sector cannot address the full scope of hunger, and it was never designed to do so. Our leaders in government must act.”
Senator Gillibrand — a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Chair of the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee — noted that a Department of Defense report this summer found that 24 percent of active duty service members (one in four) experienced food insecurity compared to one in 10 people generally nationwide.
“That is a moral outrage,” Gillibrand said. “People should be furious about it, and we should be demanding better. It’s unconscionable that we cannot provide what our families need. Our national security depends on having a military that is strong and capable of meeting any challenge. But no one is strong when they can’t get enough to eat. So long as our service members are struggling with food security, we as a nation are not only risking their wellbeing and that of their families but also our larger military readiness.”
Last year, MAZON succeeded in enacting a targeted Military Family Basic Needs Allowance to help military families facing hunger. Congress is now negotiating the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes important proposals to improve this new allowance and ensure that it is available to all military families who need it. In the coming months, Congress is also expected to begin negotiating the 2023 Farm Bill, which will be another important opportunity to help military families by ensuring that they can access federal nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps). More information can be found at www.endmilitaryhunger.org.