Military food stamp use on the rise
February 17th, 2014
10:00 AM ET
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More soldiers used food stamps to buy milk, cheese, meat and bread at military grocers last year.

Food stamp redemption at military grocers has been rising steadily since the beginning of the recession in 2008. Nearly $104 million worth of food stamps was redeemed at military commissaries in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

"I'm amazed, but there's a very real need," said Thomas Greer, spokesman for Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that helps soldiers on the financial brink nationwide.

Some of the growth in soldiers' redemption of food stamps reflects the weak economic recovery, especially for spouses looking for jobs. In 2012, there was a 30% unemployment rate among spouses off active-duty military who were 18 to 24 years old, according to the Military Officers Association of America, which released the survey last week.

Spouses who have to relocate every few years have a tough time finding work in the private sector.

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Filed under: Food Politics • Human Rights • Hunger • Military • SNAP

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Career Army

    Truthfully, the military pays well, gives free health care ot active duty service members and their families, and provides tax free pay to families with dependents.

    Many lower enlisted service members DO qualify on paper for food stamps–because base pay is the only taxable item on their leave an earnings statement. If they have a family to support and are fortunate enough to have housing–they are then paid a housing allowance (non-taxable) which is often much higher than the market dictates around them. Example: my rent is 1200 per month, but my housing allowance is 1700. They also get BAS, or basic allowance for subsistence, which is also non-taxable....

    Financial irresponsibility is the cause of this, I believe through and through. I've been in for 13 years and counting. It's hard to feel bad when I have lived the life (CONUS, Iraq, Afghanistan) for this long without struggle-because I PLAN where my finances are going and PLAN for the future.

    February 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
  2. nick 943

    How many flippin kids do you need to have to qualify for food stamps while in the military? I make 1k a month and dont qualify but every year i have to shell out about 1k in taxes to support these fu**ers who want to live beyond their means. I live in a military town and i see so many soldiers driving around in new muscle cars, live in a house and has a wife who doesn't work, hardly a rough life.
    More likely the cause is that the military lets anybody join up these days, including those of poor character, those who lie about paying rent when they live in moms basement, lie about having PTSD etc...

    February 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • Chuck Finley

      You make 1k a month... and you "shell out 1k" to support these $%^$%^??? Do you even know how much of each tax dollar you pay is actually put towards these programs lol? Look, I am all for weeding out the abuse of these programs, but you demonstrate a clear misunderstanding of how things actually work. Before you complain, do a little homework next time or even talk to someone who has been overseas in a warzone or a mother who stays at home with her kids while her husband is gone for a year; I dare you to tell them they "hardly have a rough life".

      February 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
  3. Elijah

    Never had to deal with this when I was in, but it's a pretty FUBAR situation when we can't even pay our soldiers enough to feed their families.

    February 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • Carn E. Vore

      Another way to word your statement is "Why are military members who can't afford to start families starting them?"

      February 21, 2014 at 10:54 am |
  4. Leigh Rush

    Perhaps if the military pay was better there wouldn't be so many service members that needed to use food stamps or WIC. I am a retired military spouse. My husband joined the military just after high school. We were married and found out we were pregnant almost immiediately. While things were tight we made due. By the time he made E-5 a few years later we were overseas and pregnant again. This time we had twins. Let me tell you that even at the E-5 pay level we struggled. At that time there was no food stamps or WIC allowed overseas, trying to pay for diapers and formula for twins on top of all the other expenses was an incredible struggle. We always made due and our kids never lacked for anything, my husband and I would forgo any little luxuries we had before our kids lacked for anything. But to be honest with you, even though I also worked, it wasn't until my husband achieved E-7 status that we finally felt somewhat comfortable money wise. Now my daughter is in the military. She has been in for several years now and although she is currently single there has been a constant struggle with money. She is good about her spending habits and always pays her bills on time etc. But lets face it, the military enlisted pay is sorely lacking. No one that protects our country should have to worry about having enough money to feed themselves and/or their family. There is finally a push to get the minimum wage increased to a decent level in several areas of this country, maybe an overhaul of the military enlisted pay will one day get the same much needed overhaul.

    February 19, 2014 at 8:22 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammperpants ♫♫

      The military wasn't designed to be a career choice equivalent to the civilian world. If one is in for 20+ years, so be it. You will be taken care of. Otherwise, there is a mission and a purpose for the military – making your family comfortable is not it's primary goal.

      And before anyone pops off, I am a vet.

      February 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
  5. Carn E. Vore

    I spent 24 years in the military. Here's the 800lb elephant in the room of the "food stamps in the military" issue: why are some young military members getting married and having children if they can't afford to care for them? When you're an E-2 and you look at the military pay chart and see you're making $1716/month before taxes, you shouldn't be thinking "Yeah, I'm 19 years old, I should have a wife and three kids by now!" Being responsible and waiting a few years before creating new human beings would probably eliminate over 99% of the food stamp necessity.

    February 17, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
    • Ellie Fantt

      Since you seem to be an expert, how much money should one make before procreating?

      February 18, 2014 at 7:15 am |
      • Carn E. Vore

        It seems you're for some reason being sarcastically snotty. My comment is based on 24 years of experience in the military. Do YOU have a similar frame of reference you're using in order to form an educated opinion on this subject? But to answer your question, it depends on various factors: the cost of housing and food/diapers where you plan on living, the cost of child care if both parents work, the cost of medical bills, etc. There are many factors that RESPONSIBLE people should look at before having children IF money may be a factor. Sadly, there are too many people that just won't be responsible and instead say "Screw it, the gubmint'll give me money to pay for stuff I can't afford". An E-2 in the Army can be an E-5 in only a couple of years; that will earn him larger quarters and an additional $10000+/year in salary. Is it really that big of a deal to delay having children that long?

        February 18, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
        • JellyBean@Carn E. Vore

          Glad you responded to that snarky comment. My father put in 28 years in the military and shares your point of view.

          February 19, 2014 at 8:32 am |
      • Ellie Fantt

        Thanks for being vague and not answering the question. Depends, depends, depends. You misunderstood my snark. I wouldn't tell anyone how to live their life without something more concrete to offer than adult diapers.

        February 19, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
        • Carn E. Vore

          I answered the question quite reasonably. If I were an E-3 and wanted to have a child I might easily be able to afford one if I was stationed in Oklahoma. But if instead I was stationed in San Diego I might not be able to afford it. That's why my post stated that responsible adults should weigh financial variables before decided to have a child. Way to completely ignore that, though, in your rush to stay ignorant while adding no value to the discussion.

          February 21, 2014 at 10:53 am |
        • Ellie Fantt

          Ok, E-3, I'll spell this out for you: There. You told us that according to you we "can't" make and support having children, my still unanswered question, oh great sage, is what dollar amount do you feel we CAN make and have children?

          February 24, 2014 at 6:59 am |
  6. A Cohen

    Another over simplification of a story to create sensational news without any understanding of the why. Could it be food stamp rise in the military commissaries is on the rise is a result of one or more of the following factors? Maybe the total number of service members eligible for food stamps has not changed and that more military families are simply shopping in the commissary system as opposed to an off base grocer? Or maybe the total number has changed because as we grew the military to fight two wars the nation recruited more and more married service members with families thus increasing the total number of lower grade military eligible for assistance based on family size and income? Maybe it is simply a part of overall increase in food stamp spending by the federal government (according the USDA website, as a nation we went from 15.2 million participating households in FY 2009 to 23.1 million in FY 2013 or just about a 52 percent increase? Did the reporter bother to ask the DoD compensation folks are the good people at the USDA for the “why”?

    February 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
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