This week food banks were in the headlines, as a new report by Feeding America showed that 46 million Americans — that’s one out of seven people in the United States — rely on food banks to get what they need to stay healthy. Yet another notable statistic from that report was that 25% of alláU.S. military households depend on those same food banks.
The Pentagon took issue with that number.á”Without performing appropriate statistical adjustments to match the survey sample with the military population, it is impossible to accurately calculate an estimated percentage of military households served by the Feeding America’s programs based on the survey data,” saidáNavy Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman.
There are of course programs available to help military families, but as NPR reported, it’s not always easy to ask for that help.
Joyce Raezer, executive director of theáNational Military Family Association, a nonprofit group that supports military families, says service members are often reluctant to seek such help. That’s especially the case now that the military is downsizing, she says.
“People are afraid to call attention to themselves. They don’t know who’s getting picked to be asked to leave and who’s going to get to stay and what the criteria are. And so a lot of these families are just laying low,” says Raezer.
Also, it can be embarrassing to admit you need help with food. Raezer wasn’t at all surprised that we were unable to get any military families to go on record for this story.
“The reason they go to the food bank is it’s anonymous,” she says.
Whether or not 25% is the actual number of military households depending on food banks, the real issue at hand here is that millions of Americans, including those who serve, are in situations where it’s economically impossible to get the food that they need. In fact,áthe Defense Department this year issued its lowest pay raise ľ 1 percent — in 50 years. According to NBC News, “For enlisted soldiers, pay starts at about $18,000 for new recruits and can reach upward of $65,000 for some who log more than 18 years in the military.”
Ultimately, these statistics point out how much many Americans are struggling to meet their most basic needs.
“The results from this historic study are truly alarming. Many of the people we serve struggle not only to get enough to eat, but also to keep a roof over their heads, the lights on in their homes, and to cover their healthcare and medicine costs,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America, in a statement.
One thing is sure: we need to do more to ensure food security in America as well as work to fight poverty.
Photo Credit: State Farm