Our research tells us that many military families struggle with food insecurity and budget shortfalls. You may have trouble putting food on the table year-round, and this stress is even more apparent over the holidays.
We believe that all families should have the resources they need to serve their families healthy, nutritious meals and that no military family should go to bed with their stomachs growling.
This list includes programs to help military families stretch their budgets farther over the holidays. There are programs to provide free meals, transportation home, toys for children, free Christmas trees, and more.
There is no shame in reaching out and participating in these programs. They exist to serve the military community and want to help your family thrive this holiday season. Please share them with your friends, neighbors, and the military community.
These programs often operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and each has a different closing date for applications. If you missed the program this year, bookmark this page to apply next year, and check out the other programs on the list. If you are in a place to support these programs, please remember most rely on donations, and give generously!
Programs offered by members of the Military Family Food Insecurity Coalition
The Military Family Advisory Network founded a coalition to tackle the issue of food insecurity among military families. This coalition meets quarterly to share information and resources and to work towards solutions in the space. The goal of the coalition is to ensure that military families know where to turn for food assistance when they need it and to expand programming to serve military families and alleviate food insecurity among this population. The below programs are offered by coalition members:
Military Family Advisory Network’s MilMap
Want to get involved in your community but don’t know where to start? New to the area and hoping to make new friends? Looking for community-based organizations that serve military and veteran families? MilMap can help you find and share valuable resources near you.
Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) Operation Holiday Joy
Operation Holiday Joy supports junior enlisted families by providing toys and baskets of food for holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. This program may vary by ASYMCA location, so please click here to learn about Operation Holiday Joy at a branch near you.
Armed Services YMCA Operation Ride Home
Plane tickets and pre-paid debit cards are given to assist those traveling. Operation Ride Home provides $100 per family member for ground transportation and up to $400 per family member for air travel. Participants are selected based on financial need and a personal statement that they include in their application. Read the program FAQs and apply here.
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross offers a variety of services for military families covering emergency aid, deployment services, information referral, and financial aid. If your family needs emergency assistance, you can submit a request online or call the American Red Cross at 1-877-272-7337.
Scholarships for Military Spouses
The National Military Family Association offers scholarships for college, trade schools, certifications, and even grants to support small businesses. If you or your spouse have educational or career growth on their holiday wishlist, apply today.
Feeding America Food Banks
Feeding America offers food banks around the United States and can support families who are geographically separated from their command. Visit their website to find a food bank near you.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
This program provides nutritional support and education, including vouchers for free food for qualifying children under 5 and pregnant women. Many installations, even overseas, host WIC offices on or near the base. Learn more and apply for WIC today.
United Way Mission United
2-1-1 is available to veterans seeking support for a variety of issues, including food insecurity, employment assistance, mental health services, housing, and more. Services are confidential. Call 211 from your phone to connect with support for veterans.
USO Holiday Support Programs
A variety of programs are offered worldwide, including events, holiday programming, entertainment, care pages, meals, and more. Find a USO center near you to participate.
Programs offered by other organizations serving military families:
Marine Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots provides new, unopened toys to children during the holiday season. Applications are handled through local chapters. To learn more and find a chapter near you visit the Toys for Tots website.
Full Circle Home
Are you currently deployed? Full Circle Home helps deployed service members send gifts to their spouses during the holiday season. Fill out a simple form, and your loved one will receive a gift and note from you. Applications close as soon as supplies are depleted, so sign up early.
Christmas Spirit Foundation Trees for Troops Program
Free Christmas Trees are available at select locations in early December. If your installation is listed, contact them for information on how you sign up for a free Christmas tree.
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals and Holiday Toys
This program distributes meal kits to military families, which include everything you need for a holiday meal, including a turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and vegetables. Operation Homefront also hosts toy drives for military children. Register for an event near you.
Cure Hunger: Salvation Army
The Salvation Army operates food banks and programs across the United States. If you are geographically separated from your command, this program is a good resource to look into. See where you can find support here.
Let’s Bring Em Home
Provides flights for service members E-4 and below to return home for the holidays. Tickets are distributed in rounds and require an online application. Learn more and apply.
Coupons for Troops
Make saving with coupons a little easier by signing up for Troopons. You will be sent a variety of coupons to use at your local commissary or grocery store to reduce your final bill. Sign up to receive coupons here.
Installation Based Resources
Reach out to your chaplain, local family support office, ombudsman, key spouse, or chain of command if you are in need of assistance this holiday season. You are not alone if you are struggling to stretch your budget this holiday season, and there are many programs offered on the local level that can help you. All you need to do is ask in order to be connected to these programs.