Today, Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05) introduced the Military Family Nutrition Access Act to address military food insecurity and hunger. This legislation would exclude the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), a subset of military compensation intended to cover the costs of off-base housing, from income calculations used to determine Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. Amending income calculations to exclude the BAH would allow tens of thousands of service members to qualify for the food assistance programs and become food secure.
"It's shocking that there are military members and their families who are forced to access the supplemental nutrition assistance programs. However, it's shameful that many of those same members and their families are ineligible to access those assistance programs because of unintended barriers," said Rep. Panetta. "Our bipartisan Military Family Nutrition Access Act would amend SNAP income calculations to more accurately reflect the level of food insecurity among active service members. The least that we can do in Congress is to ensure that those who provide our national security have food security."
"Our nation's servicemembers put their lives on the line for our country every day. Too often, junior members of the military and their families experience food insecurity, and current law makes it difficult for them to access important safety-net nutrition programs," said Rodgers. "Today, inflation is forcing families to stretch their paychecks further, and military families are not immune. That's why I'm proud to help lead on the Military Family Nutrition Act to take an important first step towards cutting through red tape that has prevented families at Fairchild and beyond from accessing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program during times of crisis."
"If Congress is truly committed to supporting our troops, it must stop forcing military families to suffer from hunger needlessly and pass this bill without delay," said Abby J. Leibman, President and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. "As an organization that documented the wide reach of military hunger -- with food pantries operating on or near every military base in the country -- and leads the national advocacy effort for policy changes to address this preventable problem, MAZON thanks Representatives Panetta and McMorris Rodgers for their moral and political leadership. Particularly in the wake of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, we have a unique opportunity to consider systemic policy changes as part of a bold vision to end hunger in this country -- this must include helping military families who struggle with food insecurity."
Previous actions taken to end the military hunger crisis:
Rep. Panetta previously introduced the bipartisan Military Hunger Prevention Act to create a basic needs allowance to support low-income servicemembers who are currently not eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Rep. Panetta and Senator Tammy Duckworth have sent multiple letters to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the U.S. House Armed Services Committee (HASC) urging them to include amendments introduced by Panetta and Duckworth in the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that tackle the issue of military hunger.
Further background information on the military hunger crisis:
Between 2015 to 2019, 11.1% of working-age Veterans lived in food-insecure households, resulting in disrupted eating patterns and household members may reduce food intake due to limited resources.
7.1% of Veterans participate in the SNAP program, compared to 15% of non-Veterans. Similarly, only 20% of low-income households that utilized charitable food and nutrition assistance included a Veteran.
In 2019, SNAP households included 22,000 active-duty service members, 213,000 members of the National Guard or reservists, and 1.1 million veterans.