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It’s Not About the Food Banks

Monday, August 25, 2014

A recent NBC News segment on Hunger in America has been the buzz among military and military family advocates. The report by Feeding America, the nation's largest food bank network claims 25% of active military families get and need some help with food. That’s one in four households.  Wait, what?

Yes, according to the report titled Hunger in America-2014 Feeding America officials estimated that 620,000 of their 46.5 million customers, or about 25 percent of the military population in 2012, used food banks. This included active, Guard and Reserve family members.

The Department of Defense immediately put out a statement challenging those numbers. But setting fuzzy math aside, it’s not about the food banks, the SNAP program, or active vs. Reserve Component; it’s about supporting a soldier through financial readiness education.

In 2014 financial readiness strategies are not taught in high school or college. For many soldiers, the first time they hear the term is at basic training. But think about how hard basic training can be, and then put a sleep deprived soldier in a warm classroom. I dare to say that paying attention to the lecture is not going to be easy.

Military families include young, blended, single parent, and geographically separated families. All of these scenarios can add financial stress to even the best financially sound budget. Add to that the difficulty finding employment for military spouses who move often and the single paycheck household becomes the norm. I can tell you from experience, living pay check to pay check is a reality among many military households. However, with the current focus on force reduction many soldiers will keep their financial situations to themselves. And unfortunately there are many predatory lending companies that set up shop right outside military installation gates and can make a soldiers’ financial situation much worse.

Therefore to me, the question isn’t, “how many military families are using food banks?” but rather, “what can be done to ease the financial stress many of our military families’ experience?”

I’d like to introduce you to two websites that I hope you can use or share widely with our military families.

Save and Invest: http://www.saveandinvest.org/MilitaryCenter/

Military Saves: http://www.militarysaves.org/ .

Both of these websites provide real life suggestions for making the dollar stretch and work more efficiently.

For those families who are in current need visit the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance website to see if you qualify for help. It is limited to Active Duty service members, National Guard, and Reserve component members on active duty status.

Anyone can find themselves dealing with financial challenges. There should be no shame in receiving a hand up when it comes to feeding your family, but using the many financial resources available will hopefully help military families in this tough situation.