Kay, a military wife who did not want her last name used for confidentiality reasons, is once again on her way to a food bank to feed her family of six. His family is one of theduring the coronavirus pandemic.
“It lasts a few days, maybe just because there are so many of us in the house,” she said.
Her husband, an E-5 sergeant, works at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington. Her take-home pay is approximately $ 3,000 per month. It’s not enough.
“I can’t feed my kids. I can’t afford this vehicle because I had to feed my kids. It’s just unacceptable, really,” Kay said.
Since the pandemic struck, a study found that nearly 40% of active service members are food insecure; for minority members, it is more than half.
There is no pantry at JBLM. Col. Trey Rutherford, chief of staff for the Seventh Infantry Division, said the base was also not tracking food insecurity. Rutherford encouraged struggling families to seek help.
“We challenge families to have the courage to trust us, to trust their leaders, to help them solve challenges,” said Rutherford. “And they have to feel comfortable saying, ‘Hey, family, I need help.'”
The Army’s Emergency Relief Program helps with budgeting, financial planning, and loans for food. The program has disbursed more than $ 38,000 for regular food assistance, according to the JBLM’s Personnel and Family Preparation Directorate.
But military culture values resilience. Asking for help may seem taboo. “So talking to other spouses, it was kind of like, no, it’s kinda silent,” Kay said.
“We know families have struggled with this for a long time, but they often did it quietly. But now we’re starting to see families opening up a bit more and seeking that support, which is really good news, ”said Shannon Razsadin, Executive Director of the Military Family Advisory Network.
Many military spouses lost their jobs during the pandemic. JBLM followed at least 350 families within the 7th Infantry Division who lost their second income.
“They are challenged. They are in a hurry,” Rutherford said. “We have to improve and we will improve.”
The base is in the neighborhood of Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland. “The people who serve our country shouldn’t have to worry about the food on the table,” she said at a recent virtual town hall. But in December, Congress did not approve a basic needs allowance for military families.
Kay has since reduced her family’s meals to two a day. “It was the hardest on the little one just because she didn’t understand. ‘I’m hungry. I always eat when I’m hungry,” “she said.
For those who would like more information on how to help military families, visit: www.combatmilitaryhunger.org.