DoD “all in” on combating “food insecurity” in the ranks

| July 28, 2021

We talked about what “food insecurity” is a while back when surveys were used to make it appear as if our troops are starving. As I explained at the time, some of the answers that classify you as “insecure” about your food choices/availability are;

  • If you one time over the last year ate a McD’s value meal instead of going to Outback for a Bloomin’ Onion and surf and turf, you might be food insecure.
  • If you one time over the last year ordered just a meal at Applebee’s and skipped the appetizers, you might be food insecure.
  • If you one time over the last year ate a lunch consisting of a cup o’ noodles from the vending machine instead of going and getting a good meal, you might be food insecure.

Now the issue is getting the attention it deserves. It’s Secretary of Defense Austin’s “very highest” priorities.

Military Times reports;

It has been difficult to quantify the problem of hunger in military families. For years, advocates have been pushing DoD to gather accurate data on food insecurity. That is a core element of DoD’s new effort, Barron said. “We are gathering data and analyzing relevant statistics, which will help us better scope the problem,” she said, noting that she is “foot stomping the research piece.”

When she came to her job at the Defense Department in January, she said, she began having conversations with colleagues about food insecurity. “I really did get a look that said to me, ‘We don’t think we have a problem.’ The reason they thought we didn’t have a problem was, at the time, we were just looking at the low SNAP numbers,” she said. SNAP is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

But in her previous work as a family advocate in the nonprofit Association of the U.S. Army, she said, she was hearing that food insecurity in the military is a problem, as she came into DoD.

“No one at the department owned the issue,” she said, “not that anyone needs to own it. But I felt like I at least needed to raise the awareness,” she said.

She brought in an Army colonel to speak about the issue of how financial insecurity affects the physical and mental state of a person, and 90 people came to listen, she said.

Her office has also started working with experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, too. Lawmakers have also been asking questions about the issue. “Now the department is much more aware,” she said. “Military Community and Family Policy office now owns the issue of food insecurity, and we’re hard at work since April to develop a plan for the department that everyone can wrap their arms around.”

Some steps under way:

*Barron’s office will start to train Military Family Life counselors and Military OneSource consultants on resources available for families experiencing food insecurity.

*DoD will pilot a food insecurity assessment tool that will help determine the needs of service members and families.

*Her office is working with the DoD financial readiness office to make sure families know what resources are available. The financial readiness office will also implement a tool of their own to address the issue.

Food insecurity is a readiness and national security issue, Barron said, but proper nutrition is also an issue, because service members and their families need the proper nutrition to keep their minds and bodies performing at their best. She noted that many parents will often give up their own food to make sure their children can eat. If service members are worried about their families not getting enough to eat, it can affect their ability to do their job and the mission, she said. And it’s not just married troops: DoD is also looking at food insecurity among single service members.

Perhaps instead of combating an issue that doesn’t exist (though with the fight against “extremism” in the ranks, I guess that’s the DoD’s new favorite activity) we should spend more time educating your servicemembers on financial management. A few less Scat Pack Chargers, Mustangs, and Camaros on base and suddenly these young’uns might have enough of their allowances and pay left to eat.

Category: "Teh Stoopid", "Your Tax Dollars At Work", Big Pentagon

Comments (48)

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  1. Tallywhagger says:

    It has been more than a year since I was in McDonald’s. During Lent they sometimes reduce the price of the fish sammich. Those fish sammiches were wonderful, back in the 60s. So, I decided to splurge on buy-two for some special price promo. They were awful

    I don’t even know how you can phuck up such a simple sandwich, short of having the Navy cook it. /sarc. I ate part of one, that’s how I found out how blah and tasteless it was. Probably should have taken the rest of it home for the dogs but didn’t think of it at that moment.

    Wendy’s still has pretty good chili, I hope.

    • President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neanderthal B Woodman Domestic Violent Extremist SuperStraight says:

      …… hope.

      I very seldom eat out at fast food burger places. ESPECIALLY not Mickey Dee’s or Wendy’s.
      if at all, usually if we’re driving a long trip & stop for lunch.
      I guess the closest I come to eating out at a fast food burger place is the occasional (once per month?) Five Guys.

    • 26Limabeans says:

      Joe and Nemo’s in Malden Square.
      “Steamed” hotdogs and hamburgers.
      Even the buns were “steamed”.
      It was a famous chain in the Boston area long
      before any of the fast food places of today.

  2. Green Thumb says:

    I was a Private and I was below the poverty line.

    I will say that this is a real issue in some ways. No issue with your argument as single soldiers (barracks or off post) do not count on this and married ones that toss budgetary concerns to the wind do not either. In both cases, soldiers drink it up, buy toys or eat for taste.

    But I have seen cases of larger families that struggled as they had to cover child care (if kids not old enough for school and wife worked). Generally, a solid NCO support chain could identify this and make corrections / changes. But not always.

    My point being, I would not generalize this and make it a political argument as it does happen, although not as much as she suggests.

    I also do not have an issue with using assessments and making sure that families are aware of financial resources. I have seen many a marries E-4 and below it larger families (2+ kids) use WIC, food bank. food stamps, childcare assistance, etc. No issue with it. I would add a caveat though that she should also make basic financial planning available as well.

    The Army is a family. Or so they used to say.

    • MI Ranger says:

      This goes back to NCOs doing what NCOs should be doing. Know their Soldiers!

      I will be the first to admit I was not Audie Murphy award material, as an NCO. My leader book often times failed to record the names and current ages of my Soldiers. But I knew how many they had, and I could recognize them when I saw them. I met them and made sure they knew who I was. I paid attention to what my Soldier’s spouses did, and how they took advantage of things on post. Thankfully I never had a single Specialist that decided he needed a muscle car! I did have a few that bought motorcycles…and I darn sure got them to add to their initial purchase: leathers, a good helmet, and boots (ok, maybe not the Harley guys…just the helmet for them). Often times you could finance it along with the bike. I remember my board questions, and most of them were about services available on post, and who could and how to enroll. We had one of the Soldiers in my platoon (other squad) who had four kids. We all got together to help them understand what Food Stamps were and why they needed them. We also made him (and his wife) understand what he needed to do to get promoted. It was amazing to see him straighten up and take things seriously. It was his wife that kept him on track!
      An NCOs job is to ensure his Soldiers are focused on the mission, and they do not have distractions.

  3. KoB says:

    Lawd halp! Yep, create an issue just to justify her phony baloney job. “…raise awareness…” Hey, check with another crowd out in Nevada that wants to “raise awareness”, maybe they can donate a few bowls of chili?

    Here’s something you can “raise awareness” on. A little gem from the way back days called “personal responsibility”. As a young soldier I had an unsponsored dependapotomus and screwed up pay from the FIRST (ht 2 Roh-Dog) transition to the new JUMPS. Took a letter to Senator Sam Nunn and intervention by a 2 Star threatening to make Major_____ a 2LT_____ at F&A to get it straightened out after 6 months of back and forth. In the meantime, wifey got a job at the PX, and I did off duty work hither and yon. We were making more than what the base pay was before it got fixed. We were doing OK…on our own, tho it was real nice when it did get fixed and all the back pay came in. That 2 star was one of the GOs I was referring to in my comment to Ret-25X on the woke Gnrl thread. You know, ones that liked to look after their troops. Remember when we had those? Pepper Ridge Farms remembers.

    • Roh-Dog says:

      These types of headaches are unnecessary and a threat to good order and discipline.
      I went 8 months living off post without BAH.
      Never missed rent, bills, or went hungry.
      Rice, frozen veggies, tuna and chicken, no movies, superfluous shopping, lots of biking and running to occupy my time (Lost 10 pounds! Also training up for SFAS).
      It’s not hard IF one is single, w/ fam it gets a bit harder. But if Joe is getting all their allotments? Well…
      And there’s the rub, SNCOs and Chains of Command should be jumping in asses to unf**k Joe, at all costs if called for.

    • Anonymous says:

      Personal responsibility? That’s “racist” now, comrade! (Ask Lars, he’ll tell you how that makes “inequality”… )

      Really, it’s “harmful” to make people do sh*t for themselves and “hurtful” to tell ’em they need to today. Can’t harsh anyone’s “authentic” mellow of being a lazy sh*tbird, you know– that’d be “traumatic” and stuff.

  4. Steve 1371 says:

    Back in 69 I bought a 68 Road Runner and was stationed at Camp Lejeune. There was a place on base called the swoop circle. Drivers went there to pick up passengers who wanted a ride to various locations. I could go there broke and pick up 5 passengers at $10.00 each and make the trip all the way to southern N H and still have enough for the trip back as far as exit 3 on the N J turnpike where I would pick up riders back to base. I don’t remember ever being hungry.
    I usually picked riders going to D C or N Y C. Gas was .30cents a gallon back then. It took 160 gallons round trip.

  5. SgtBob says:

    Way too much stupid for morning reading. Here is the solution: DOD publishes a weekly menu for soldiers with dependents, based on number of persons in household. Soldier or dependent fills menu at commissary. Commissary authenticates menu purchases. Cost is deducted from soldier’s pay. No congressional hearings, no DOD civilian meetings, non hauling of career-minded 06 before cameras to explain the most important issue of our times.

  6. Hack Stone says:

    Allow Hack to propose a solution. The military issues vouchers to Enlisted and Junior Officers to be used at the local “gentlemen’s club” in lieu of stuffing dollar bills down the g-strings Of “single mothers only working here for college tuition”. The GI’s spend their real money on buying food at the commissary for the defendants that they created, and the vouchers can be redeemed at a military sponsored business for tattoos, hair weaves, and breast enhancements.

  7. Jay says:

    Speaking from both ends of the spectrum on this:

    During active duty: I didn’t become FULLY INVESTED in the family life until I was a SNCO. I was an E-6 with 2 kids and selected for E-7 when I had my 3rd.My spouse left their career making decent money due to the fact that child care would have taken damn near ALL take home pay. Being a family of 5 was hard, but doable. I drove a car that was damn near old enough to vote and we didn’t eat out much and lived within our means using the resources available: Commissary, Sams Club, etc.

    Now that I’m retired, I work for the county department that takes intake/processing for food stamps outside a large military base. A large portion of clients applying are active duty military. When it comes to applying for food stamps, we count ALL sources of income: base pay, BAH, and BAS. The only deductions we count are rent/mortgage and utilities. Young service members want to talk about not being able to afford food but both they and spouse are driving new vehicles, have the latest model cell phone, wearing $200+ shoes, etc. Or, on occasion I will have the single service member who lives in the barracks and has a meal card applying. I ask them why: “I don’t like eating in the chow hall.”

    I try to empathize, and the SNCO wants to ask if they’ve done a financial worksheet….but I can’t. At the same time, when you have an E-e receiving X amount of dollars in BAH, but they are spending 200+ MORE for rent, there is a fundamental problem there….and it’s not food insecurity.

    • Roh-Dog says:

      Yep. Everything you said is the heart of the problem.
      I’m a compassionate man but there’s a limit.
      I got upside-down a few times but it was 100% paperwork related (DFAS pulled the tax due out of my base pay because I allocated my $10,000 bonus to TSP).
      That was fun explaining to the AER Battalion Rep then to the Program Civi, “You did WHAT?!”.
      It’s like they’d never seen such a thing. I explained my parents are CPAs and taught me about compounding interest but I was asleep during the Tax on Nonstandard Pay/Bonus class.
      I was really disturbed that they’d no idea wtf I was talking about.

    • Anonymous says:

      But, one in five children suffers from “HUNGER” (oh noes)… and two in five are fat.

      A food problem this ain’t.

  8. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    As a child food insecurity meant there wasn’t enough food to feed 5 boys and 2 parents on a regular basis with enough food to meet the calories requirements suggested by the US Government to maintain good nutrition. It meant we often had popcorn after dinner to stop the rumbling in our stomachs because 5 pound bags of popcorn cost less than protein…

    It meant sometimes coming from school and there was no telephone or electricity because the bill couldn’t be paid until pay day. It meant a great many things far more uncomfortable than the list above all of which would have been luxuries to me as a child. My parents would not take government programs we qualified for so we learned to do without.

    That list is not food insecurity by any stretch of the imagination.

  9. Roh-Dog says:

    I ate way better in the Army. It was a moral calculation to take care of myself and fulfill my duty to my country.
    One cannot perform well eating junk, and that starts with conquering unknown-unknowns for a good amount of the dotmil.
    I hate saying this, but here’s the rub:
    Too many SMs are too young, or haven’t ever been taught to budget, or have a lack of discipline.
    If your subordinate is ‘food insecure’, 99/100 times it’s because someone sucks as a leader.
    On a side note, when I was an Instructor with TRADOC we had a SFC… I had been humble bragging about my retirement savings and plan. I asked him where he was, he told me about the bills: new SUV for the missus, BMW for him, vacations, Credit card bills…saddled with debt.
    My jaw was on the floor. I felt so damn bad for him so I gave him a couple classes on interest, retirement accounts, books on savings, gave him a list of links to resources.
    By the time I left Benning in two year he went from $80k in debt to $30k in the green.
    I’m not tooting my horn, just showing that this rot is cultural. With SNCOs living just like the rabble, it’s no wonder…

    • Jay says:

      Therein lies the rub: a lot of these SNCO’s/junior O’s today tend to/want to live like the junior servicemembers and be ‘cool’, and not lead. My car at retirement was legitimately older than 3 of my troops. They always laughed at me and poked fun at it. I always came back with, “Laugh all you want: its paid off, insurance is like 15$ a month, and it costs me about 30$ to fill the tank.” Meanwhile you got a kid living in the barracks with a 20XX brand new Mustang/Challenger/Ram 1500 with 18%+ interest where the vehicle never moves because they can’t afford to put gas in it.

      And I get it: a LOT of kids coming in today come from nothing. You give them some money and they don’t know how to manage it. That’s where financial education NEEDS to be drilled into them….and not just for ‘annual training’ to get the check in the box.

      • Roh-Dog says:

        Hell, that’s sad. These mistakes are going to impact them for the rest of their lives.
        Early 2000s: Had a BDE CSM, old salty MF, scrolled from Grenada. He had a 1980s Ford Festiva.
        Dudes would laugh at him bombing around post, thing made a racket as the muffler had a hole, paint all flaked off, inside devoid of liners.
        I talked to him on Staff Duty one time, he gave me a rundown of his retirement plans, savings and rentals.
        Dude was a multimillionaire.
        So anytime my coworkers poked fun at that ‘dumb car’ I told them to STFU, CSM ‘Skeletor’ was the smartest man they will ever know.

        • 11B-Mailclerk says:

          I am driving a decade+ not-very-big vehicle with 300+k miles on it. Runs good. Looks decent. Handles great in foul weather.

          If, on rare occasion, I get a hankerin for something big/fast/new, I rent it for the weekend.

          That car payment I don’t make goes to much better use.

      • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

        I’ve more than once seen a young SM self-saddled with an at least 12 year old V6 Camaro or Mustang fresh from some lot right outside the gates that he bought “all on his own” paying at least 30% interest. Another “interesting” thing I remember from my AD Days on Benning was a store there in Peachtree mall that tried to con young Joes into “getting free things” from them, no cash, all they had to do for their purchases was to sign an allotment form! My point is that while there are resources to help Servicemembers and their families, there is often no shortage of Financial Predators near Military Facilities as well.

  10. SFC(R) Blizz says:

    I’ll throw out a crazy idea, how about we pay our Soldiers better. Maybe increase BAH based on the number of dependents. We can blame the Soldier for bad financial management and rightly so in many cases. Many are kids who have barely worked their first job in high school. But…. lets not beat around the bush. Pay for the service is crap for what is expected. I make double of what I made as an SFC now that I’m retired and have way less responsibility as a leader. I get it, we are serving our country so pay shouldn’t matter. However, if we have Soldiers on SNAP, that is an issue that the Army should be addressing with better pay. They are relying on SNAP to make up for the lack of better pay. We ask our young men and women to risk their lives in some of the most dangerous places on earth. We demand they train hard and put their life and body are risk just in peacetime to prepare for war. I know it’s against the law and I’m sure many will hiss and boo at me, but after seeing what unions do for workers in the civilian world, it would be nice to have representatives to represent us and collectively bargain for better pay and benefits.

    • SFC D says:

      “after seeing what unions do for workers in the civilian world, it would be nice to have representatives to represent us and collectively bargain for better pay and benefits”.

      Not in the bloody pit of Hades.

    • MI Ranger says:

      I would not say pay for Servicemen is crap. Teachers yes, but not Servicemen. Yes, if you compare it directly to what they are proposing for minimum wage ($15/hr) then a PVT does not make as much. If you compare what he gets in benefits, I would say the PVT comes out on top.
      What does a PVT with four kids have to pay for child care and school? I believe it is $0. Housing (Paid for if not provided)! Food (depending on where they shop, is enough). Their wife is eligible to get a job on post to make additional spending money (whether they want to or can is up to them). ACS surprisingly has a lot of classes available to learn all the skills you need to make things work (making a budget, planning meals, etc). Most people don’t take advantage of them (yeah they probably don’t put them on line).

      I am in great agreement with Roh-Dog on this one. A little bit of how to set and manage a budget would go a long way. It would be a great course for the NCO academy. Heck, maybe they start throwing in some optional classes at BNCOC and ANCOC (or whatever they are called these days) on how to secure loans, improve credit, or even Rental Property Management (and renter screening). We all do it anyway, why not help a Soldier out!

    • timactual says:

      Walk in the door, sign the contract, and you get free medical & dental coverage, three meals a day and a place to sleep, and $1785/mo. beer money–no experience, no skills, and not much education required. Free career training provided. Underpaid? Nope.

  11. OWB says:

    Who decided that eating at Applebee’s is an indicator of one’s food insecurity or lack thereof?

    It wasn’t that long ago that eating at restaurants was only done on very special occasions. We eat out much more these days than we ever did in the past, but still manage to find less expensive, and healthy=ish, options most times. Assuming that feeding a family of 5 regularly from a fast food restaurant is financially viable is just silly, and not very heathy.

  12. Hack Stone says:

    Hack Stone is currently scarfing down a cup of Nissin Cup Noodles. Food insecurity or Hack was running late this morning and just grabbed something convenient from the cupboards of Stately Stone Manor? Maybe a little Of Column A, a little of Column B. Things are awfully slow at corporate headquarters of the proud but humble woman owned business that sells software to the federal government formerly located in Bethesda Maryland. Haven’t had a sale to the government since the summer of 2014. Just hoping that Elaine Ricci comes back and makes sales great again.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      Hey Hack Stone, I saw something the other day that made me think of the outfit you work for, it was an old broke down Jaguar on a flatbed tow truck which made me wonder if that was one of its Company Cars?

      • Hack Stone says:

        Did it have a cracked windshield, missing side mirror and expired tags? 🤣😝🥴

        • A Proud Infidel®™️ says:

          The tags were missing and I didn’t pay any attention to the mirrors or windshield, I didn’t even bother to notice if the place it was going to even had a door on the mailbox!

  13. 26Limabeans says:

    I was earning only $330 per month as a spec 5 and forced to
    eat hot dogs and motherfuckers to survive.
    There wasn’t anything insecure about it either.
    Security came from the concertina and claymores.

    And the food situation in Europe was even better, living in that
    ranch style house with a commercial kitchen and a US Army cook
    assigned to the place. Only a dozen of us stationed there with
    our own rooms and the only time we saw an officer was payday.

    Two completely different food situations but I never went
    hungry serving in the military. Eisenhower had a sign in mess
    halls that read “Take all you want but eat all you take”.

  14. Smitty says:

    I remember when Jimmy Carter told soldiers to get food stamps if they could not feed their families. And, like Lima Beans, I remember getting $ 350 a month as a SP/5. The soldiers I saw recently at Ft Jackson sure looked well-fed, especially the women!

  15. SFC D says:

    In 24 years of active federal service, 21 as an NCO, I don’t believe I ever saw a Soldier with financial difficulties that didn’t bring it upon themselves. 1 simple lesson: Live within your means. OK, there was 1 Soldier that didn’t bring it upon himself, he was broke because his parents were cleaning out his account on payday. We fixed that.

  16. USMCMSgt (Ret) says:

    A solution looking for a problem.

    The Pentagon ought to focus its efforts on how to make sure its military retains its lethality – stuff like that.

  17. Anonymous says:

    But folk need to have the latest car and iPhone… we need more Free Sh*t!! (Free food– more Socialism, y’all– for that “food insecurity” so lazy sh*ts don’t have make do and be less stylin’… )

  18. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    I can’t help but compare “food insecurity problem” with “so many folks on fatso PT”.

    Don’t marry below E-6. Don’t spawn below E-6 -or- out of wedlock.
    Don’t buy cars that require payments other than the one.
    Save save save.
    Don’t flash money, and don’t let most folks know you have it.

    But -do- be charitable.

  19. timactual says:

    No sympathy in this corner. It’s a volunteer job, and pay scales are public domain.

    Used up all my sympathy on guys with wife and kids who were drafted and sent overseas. If I recall correctly moving expenses back then didn’t extend to E4 and below, so even Europe was an unaccompanied tour unless you had money. Even allowing for inflation pay rates and benefits are much higher today.

    It ain’t my responsibility to pay for their family.

  20. QMC says:

    “A few less Scat Pack Chargers, Mustangs, and Camaros on base and suddenly these young’uns might have enough of their allowances and pay left to eat.”

    That was me. After taxes, over half my paycheck went to my car bill as an E3 and E4. I may have skipped a meal here and there from time to time, but I was going to look good driving on and off base.

  21. borderbill says:

    Paygrade E-4 AND over 4 years service to qualify for dependent support. Our fuckin’ military better start gettin’ it’s stuff together and quit bein’ a charity. We need to spend the bucks on preparing for war.