Did you know one in 10 food bank visitors have a service member in their family? Food insecurity, defined by the USDA as a lack of consistent access to enough food to live a healthy and active life, continues to rise as our military families face increased challenges. At STEP we hear the phrase, “I have no food left and no extra money, I don’t know what to do,” far too frequently. In the past year, STEP has received more than 190 applications for food assistance. To date, we have provided food assistance for more than 1,000 families in need.
What does this food insecurity look like among our military community? Joseph*, an E1 Sailor in the Navy, married with three children, found himself in financial hardship when his family had to make a costly move across the country from Georgia to their new duty station in San Diego. The family was struggling to make ends meet on their low, single income in a high-cost city.
STEP assisted the family with grocery gift cards to ensure their food security, as well as a grant to cover $863 worth of medical bills, which freed up more funds for groceries. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so we were also able to supplement the family’s food needs with our annual Thanksgiving Meal Program. Once the family’s basic needs were met, a STEP Social Worker counseled with the family to create a personalized plan to help them achieve their financial goals.
During a recent follow-up with the family, we learned the Sailor’s wife, Melanie*, had found a part-time job and is also working to earn a Business Technology Certificate to advance her career. The family is now earning two incomes and has learned how to manage their finances.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of other service members and Veterans struggling to feed their families. The most recent Census Bureau survey shows more than 16,000 active-duty service members received assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The 2018 Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey states 7% of active-duty families (more than 80,000 families) said they faced food insecurity in the past year.