NORFOLK, Va. — Food insecurity is a real problem for the nation's military members, especially for the junior enlisted troops.
Before the pandemic, one in eight military families reported being food insecure. Now, the number has grown to one in five.
In a new report released Wednesday, Military Family Advisory Network researchers interviewed over 300 food-insecure military families -- nearly 100 of them in Hampton Roads -- to better understand the contributing factors.
They found that the pandemic has played a big role, as has rising housing costs, low wages, frequent moves, and spouse under-employment.
"What we're seeing is people having to make a decision between paying their rent or paying their mortgage, or paying for food. That's the moment where they ultimately find their lives in the situation of being food insecure," said Military Family Advisory Network President Shannon Razsadin."We shouldn't be in a situation of people deciding who in their household eats and who doesn't."
Razsadin urges lawmakers to consider pay raises for the troops which actually keep pace with the rate of inflation.
And she asks that citizens consider contributing to local food banks or to her own non-profit organization. Mostly what's needed, Razsadin says, is an overall re-thinking of the problem.
"I just think there's a cultural shift that needs to happen in the military supporting these families and making sure that people don't feel that they can't ask for help," she said. "So this culture of resilience I think has created unnecessary barriers for people and we have to get past that."
A week and a half ago, the Military Family Advisory Network sponsored a drive-through food giveaway at Military Circle Mall in Norfolk. More than 800 local military and veteran families participated.