In 2017, MFAN began exploring food insecurity in the military community because we were beginning to hear stories about military families going hungry. This year the team dug even deeper into the issue of food security in the military community—the results were overwhelming and alarming.
Our most recent Survey revealed that one in eight military families struggle with food insecurity. Nearly one-fourth of currently serving military family survey respondents said their school-aged children receive free or reduced meals at school.
The situation is even more dire now that many Americans, including many military spouses, are unable to work to earn money for food.
At MFAN, we passionately believe no military family member should go hungry. We are actively working with partner organizations to locate and share resources so that military family members know where to go for food, and we’re working with advocacy organizations to make more solutions available for our community.
On Wednesday, the members of the Military Family Food Insecurity Coalition met via Zoom. MFAN first convened this group in 2018. In our meeting this week, there was shared urgency as we all navigate these uncertain times when families are forced to stretch more and more to make ends meet. Here’s what we discussed:
Efforts are being made to close meal gaps caused by school closures.
Many school districts are providing pick-up meals for people who need them and community based organizations are helping them fill gaps. Check your local school district to find nearby locations. Military families can also use MilMap to enter their zip codes and find the locations of food pantries and food banks in their area. We encourage you to visit your local food bank’s website to learn about operation changes due to COVID-19.
According to our partners at the Food Research and Action Center, families whose children typically receive free or reduced-price school meals are eligible for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. P-EBT provides those households with an EBT card loaded with the value of the free school breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates for the days that schools are closed. Visit FRAC’s COVID-19 webpage for more information, which will be updated as more information becomes available.
Community-based organizations are getting creative to meet local needs.
Food banks around the country, like the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, are working to meet the needs of people who are food insecure in their communities and they have adapted their services to fit the demands of the current crisis.
MFAN’s partners at the United Way and the Armed Services YMCA are also working to feed hungry military families by providing services like drive-up-and-pick-up bags of food, and they’re working with companies link Lyft, Task Rabbit and Door Dash to deliver food free of charge. United Way’s 2-1-1 offers 24/7 support for families through their referral program. Call them.
According to the National WIC Association (NWA), most WIC clinics are still open and offering either curbside or remote services. However, some WIC clinics will close temporarily to protect the health of WIC participants and staff. Local WIC clinics will contact participants if they are closing.
WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
Several United Service Organizations (USO) locations are also delivering food and offering grab-and-go food options on military installations. As each location follows the guidance of the garrison commander, not every location is able to offer food programs. Contact your local USO location to ask for more information.
Federal support continues to evolve.
Our survey also showed that many military families need, but are not eligible for, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits due to eligibility requirements. Our partners at the National Military Family Association (NMFA) are working on Capitol Hill to advocate for military families facing food insecurity. MFAN will continue to equip NMFA with data as they fight the good fight so that military families get the support they need and deserve.
MFAN will continue to update this blog as we learn about additional resources, so check back regularly.
This blog was last updated on March 27, 2020