Some military families are struggling to get by. More than 1 million military households, including veterans and members of the National Guard or reservists,
receive food stamps, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We’re a family of five. And we live in a three-bedroom home because it’s what we can afford,” said Eleanor Finney.
“There’s a lot of families struggling," said Eleanor Finney. "It’s not the life that people think that we’re living.”
Finney’s husband, Austin, serves in the Navy near Norfolk, Virginia. He spent 10 months in 2021 deployed to the Middle East.
The Department of Defense recently found roughly a quarter of active duty service members were food insecure. The number does not shock Finney.
“Just a few weeks ago, we tried to go to a food bank. I rolled up 45 minutes before the time slot for the food bank, and they had already capped out. They already had too many people,” Finney said.
Shannon Razsadin, who leads the Military Family Advisory Network, says the organization distributed a million meals to military families in 2021.
“Military families experience a lot of the same things that, you know, families everywhere experience. But there are these nuances that we experience that makes it a little bit harder,” Razsadin said.
The Finneys have lived in four states in four years, making it hard for Eleanor to find steady work, develop a network of neighbors and resources and figure out dependable childcare.
“I won’t take my kids to the grocery store anymore because they want things, and it’s not on the list. It’s not in the budget,” Finney said.
What she will do is speak out and ask for help. That, on its own, is a hurdle many don’t clear.
“There’s this culture of resilience in the military community. And there’s this concern that if I seek out the support, that I might take it away from someone else that needs it more than me,” Razsadin said.
Congress is working to address the issue. The nation’s annual defense bill calls for better data collection about food insecurity among military families. It also authorizes a pilot program to combat food insecurity among veterans.
“We somewhat knew what we signed up for, but we had no idea that this would be a struggle too,” Finney said.