Military families face unique barriers to food assistance. They receive a basic allowance for housing which is determined by where they are stationed, among other factors. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency that administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the modern version of food stamps known as CalFresh in California) and sets eligibility requirements considers this allowance part of their income. The IRS and several federal assistance programs do not consider military housing allowances as income. This red tape and confusion around what consists as income leaves tens of thousands of San Diego’s military families struggling to put food on the table because they are not eligible for CalFresh.
Last month Representative Susan Davis (D-San Diego) re-introduced the Military Hunger Prevent Act (H.R.1048) to Congress to make accessing food assistance easier for service members and their families. This bill would prevent military housing allowances from being used to determine eligibility for SNAP. Rep. Davis was joined by Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Don Young (R-AK), and Tim Walz (D-MN) as cosponsors of the legislation.
A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Davis stated in a press release, “Those who make great personal sacrifices in service to our country should not have to struggle to provide regular, nutritious meals for their families. Unfortunately, an unintended policy barrier prevents military families struggling with food insecurity from getting help from available federal nutrition assistance programs. This is a simple, common sense solution to ensuring that we properly care for our men and women in uniform and their families.”
According to Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report, one in five of the households served by their networks has at least one member that has ever served in the military. Making it easier for military members to access CalFresh provides a reliable source for nutritious food and a greater sense of dignity by allowing enrolled families to shop for food at grocery stories instead of standing in line at emergency food service providers such as food banks or charity pantries on or near their military base.
The San Diego Hunger Coalition endorses the Military Prevention Act and the Hunger Advocacy Network will be tracking this bill this year. We’ll keep you updated on its progress. You can do your part to remove this barrier to food assistance for military families by making your voice heard. Sign our petition to tell Congress military families facing hunger is unacceptable! Sign the petition here.