New Study Underscores Need for Critical Policy Fixes to End Military Hunger

January 5, 2023

This week, the RAND Corporation released a report, which was mandated by Congress in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), about food insecurity among military families. The report outlines the widespread problem, identifying a significant gap between the percentage of military households that are food insecure (25%) and the low rate that they participate in food assistance programs (14%). Experts from MAZON, who consulted on the report, issued the following statement:

“It is clear from the recent RAND report that a wide array of stakeholders are finally acknowledging the long-overlooked problem of military hunger,” said Josh Protas, MAZON’s Vice President of Public Policy. “While the report illustrates the pervasiveness of this shameful situation, it also underscores that action by the federal government is long overdue. Military families should not have to visit food pantries, borrow money from family members, or sacrifice paying for medicine and other essential basic needs in order to put food on the table. Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration have the opportunity and responsibility to use tools at their disposal — like the upcoming Farm Bill — to change policies that are allowing this problem to persist and grow worse. The crisis of military hunger is unconscionable, and the federal government can no longer abdicate responsibility for taking care of our nation’s military families to a charitable sector already stretched beyond its capacity.

“I take issue with the researchers’ claim that the underlying causes of military hunger remain unclear,” Protas added. “For over a decade, MAZON and our partners have been urging policymakers to understand and enact common-sense policy fixes that would help more military families access food assistance from programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps). Had the RAND researchers prioritized perspectives from military families who experience hunger over military leaders who allow this problem to continue, they would have a clearer picture of the causes, impacts, and solutions. We know that one of the clearest ways to help military families, which has bipartisan support in Congress, is to categorically exclude a service member’s Basic Allowance for Housing as counted income for programs like SNAP and the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance. This must be a priority for our leaders as they begin negotiating the 2023 Farm Bill and start work on this year’s NDAA.”

MAZON’s comprehensive report, Hungry in the Military, outlines the historical context for the problem, as well as the unique challenges facing military families, structural barriers they face, costs of inaction, and recommendations for Congress and the executive branch. Since its release in April 2021, MAZON crafted and helped to enact the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance, and continues to advocate for key improvements to this new targeted benefit.