Food and Economic Security

Military Food Insecurity Statistics

The Problem

We have been tracking the issues of food insecurity and hunger in the military community for years.

Our research consistently shows that military families have been quietly struggling with food insecurity:

  • In 2019, 1 in 8 of our national survey respondents was experiencing food insecurity.
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that number rose to 1 in 5 in some parts of the country, such as Washington state.
  • Our research released in 2022 showed that 1 in 6 military and veteran families were experiencing food insecurity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded the issue of food insecurity among military families.

Our Methods

While military and veteran families’ experiences are essential to our research, we also rely on the Department of Agriculture’s Six-Item Short Form Food Security Scale to specifically analyze the level of food insecurity these families are facing. The USDA scale uses six statements and questions to evaluate food security, and when respondents answer affirmatively, it shows that they are having trouble getting enough food for their families in some way. The scale is a precise way to evaluate food insecurity, and when paired with families’ experiences, we get a full picture of what support is needed.

Our Findings

The following reports contain key insights about food insecurity in the military community.

National Survey

One in eight survey respondents said they experienced food insecurity before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the survey, the following states recorded the highest amount of food insecurity: Texas, Virginia, California, North Carolina, Washington, Florida, and New York. When military and veteran families are experiencing food insecurity, they rely on their communities for support, especially food pantries. Our most recent national survey, conducted in 2021, showed that military and veteran families are still facing food insecurity. Read the full report.

Food Insecurity and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic made it even more challenging for active duty and veteran families to get enough food on the table. This survey, fielded in the first quarter of 2021, provides a snapshot of pandemic challenges that caused more food insecurity. The incidences rose to 1 in 5 among the respondents. Read the full report.

Support Needs of Post-9/11 Veterans and Families

Veterans struggled with food insecurity more than retirees, who leave service with a pension and other supports not available to all veterans. Veterans also faced more obstacles with social determinants of health, such as lack of emergency savings, difficulty accessing health care, and higher rates of loneliness. In this report, 15.6% of post-9/11 veteran and military retiree family respondents said they experienced food insecurity. Read the full report.

The State of the State – Texas

Respondents from Texas said they were less likely than national respondents to seek help when they don’t have enough food. Among the respondents from Texas, 1 in 6 was considered food insecure, according to the USDA food security scale. Read the full report.

Causal Factors of Military and veteran family food insecurity

Year after year, our research consistently shows that military families have been quietly struggling. This report is a first-of-its-kind qualitative study that illuminates the challenges those who serve face every day when attempting to put food on the table — like frequent moves, spouse unemployment, growing families, and unexpected expenses. Read the full report.