Do you ever worry about having enough money to buy food? Do you skip meals or rely on cheaper, less nutritious choices to make your food last?
Food insecurity can hurt performance, health, and mission readiness. There are many programs and resources available to help.
Many military families struggle with food insecurity, meaning they lack access to enough food for an active, healthy life for themselves and their families. It’s a complex problem. Military life has unique challenges, many of which come at a financial cost from frequent moves or spouse employment barriers. Although exact numbers aren’t known, about one in 4 Service Members and their families experience food insecurity.
When you can’t get the food and nutrients you need, your health, performance, and mission readiness can suffer. But there are programs and resources available to help.
Federal programs for Service Members
- Basic Needs Allowance: Effective January 2023, a monthly allowance is available to active-duty Service Members (with dependents) who meet certain income requirements. Each service has a different application process.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): For eligible families, SNAP allows you to buy groceries at authorized food stores using an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card.
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): This program provides nutritious food, nutrition counseling, and referrals to other health services for pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk. WIC Overseas provides benefits to eligible military members living overseas.
- National School Lunch, Breakfast, and Summer Food Service: These programs serve nutritionally balanced, reduced-cost, or free meals to eligible school-age children.
Additional resources to expand your food budget
- Commissaries: The commissary offers a variety of products and services (including recipes, store brands, and dietitian-approved products) to improve nutrition and food security.
- Military and Family Support Center: Find local community and installation resources nearby.
- United Service Organization: Depending on location, the USO offers free meals and snacks to Service Members and their families. The USO also supports opportunities for military spouse employment.
- Military Dining Facilities: If you’re an active-duty Service Member (pay grades E-1 through E-4), your dependents might be eligible to eat at your local dining facility at a reduced price. Check your dining facility’s website or social media accounts for availability and meal rates.
- Food banks and pantries: Many organizations and churches across the country can help you find food, including: