Why Are Military Families Food Insecure?
We no longer live in a world where families typically exist on one income, and military families are no different. There are a lot of folks right now – both military and civilian – that struggle to feed their families. But our military families are particularly vulnerable to economic downturns. Prior to the pandemic, military spouses were already unemployed and underemployed 6 times as much as their civilian counterparts. And due to the nature of military life, many military spouses work retail and service jobs that have been hardest hit by this pandemic – which means many military families are now living off one income. The economic side effects of this pandemic have disproportionately affected military families:
- The pandemic has exacerbated military spouse unemployment, which is estimated to have soared from 24% pre-pandemic, to 30%-35% during the pandemic.
- Reports of food insecurity among military families have estimated the need to be as high as almost 40% among active duty families during the pandemic.
- Enlisted active duty service members are most likely to say they are food insecure.
Military Hunger Prevention
The Department of Defense does a great job of providing service members a number of resources to offset the challenges unique to the military family, but they aren’t able to meet every need, as those needs evolve and change constantly. Military leaders at all levels and in every branch of service are committed to the health and well-being of our service members and their families. Base leadership works closely with us in every location we serve, and it is those very commanders that make what we do possible.
Armed Services YMCA Food Distribution and Emergency Relief
During the height of the pandemic, the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) addressed critical issues by providing a nimble response to meet the immediate needs of military families on three fronts:
- Delivering emergency food assistance through curbside distribution, to keep them and our staff safe.
- Providing child care to essential personnel. This includes civilian health care workers.
- Quickly adapting our education programs to function in a virtual environment and in some locations, expanded our child care options to include virtual learning for school-aged children.
The ASYMCA worked hand in hand with base leadership at military installations across the country to give out more than 2 million pounds of food and served more than 40,000 families since last March, and our commitment to combating food insecurity has not wavered.
Today, the ASYMCA continues to offer an array of supporting services and is working hard to build more partnerships in the community to better serve families. These ongoing efforts include:
- Food pantry services that offer not only shelf stable items, but fresh foods, frozen foods and Commissary gift cards to supplement military families’ grocery budgets.
- A Neighborhood Food Exchange program at select branches that aims to provide wraparound services from food to fostering relationships with local military-friendly employers and financial planning services - to address the underlying causes of food insecurity.
- Leveraging community and corporate partnerships to provide in-kind support and food donations.
How You Can Help Support Military Families
As a community and as a nation, we must come together to get these families the help they need and to do what it takes to ensure they have the tools necessary to weather setbacks now and in the future.
Join us in the fight against military food insecurity.