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Members of the US military are increasingly turning to food banks to feed their families. Some families said they couldn’t last a week without visiting the pantries.

Desiree Alvarez, her 3-year-old son Elijah and her 6-year-old daughter Marysol have had to rely on food banks to survive during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are soldiers, but we are fighting,” Alvarez said. “This is the first time I have to constantly turn to a food bank.”

Her husband is a private E-3 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, also known as JBLM. They live in Tacoma, Washington, which is expensive for a family of four living on $ 2,300 a month.

“We couldn’t go a whole week without having to go get help from a pantry,” Alvarez said. “These kids are worth it, and our family is worth it. We are worth getting the help we need.”

Military families increasingly turn to food banks during pandemic
Desiree Alvarez, her son Elijah, 3, and daughter Marysol, 6, line up at a food bank.

CBS News

About 30 minutes away, the Thurston County Food Bank serves 1,500 military families, a peak of 22% since the start of the pandemic.

JBLM chaplain Lt. Col. JP Smith said the pandemic has said military spouses have struggled to find work during the crisis.

“You take a spouse who works normally, unable to find work because of the COVID pandemic,” he said. “If they lose that second income, it’s a blow to anyone.”

Alvarez had a job until the military moved his family to Tacoma a year ago. Their financial cushion collapsed when family income fell by more than half.

The Ministry of Defense estimates that the unemployment rate for military spouses is 22%. Other estimates reach 35%. In San Diego, families using the YMCA Armed Services food bank jumped 400% during the pandemic.

Shannon Razsadin, president and executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network, said the pandemic had “exacerbated” the problem for military families.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that military families move, on average, every two and a half years. And every time families move, there’s a full reboot. It means looking for a new job, finding a new daycare, setting up with new schools, finding a new home, ”said Razsadin. “And with COVID, families have continued to move. And when you move to a market where you may not have as many housing options or where the employment situation is not what it used to be, it has really created additional problems for the military. . families.”

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