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By Molly C. Herndon, MS

Many families are experiencing hard times right now, and spending money on nutritious and wholesome food may not be a top priority. However, food insecurity is a problem that has affected families long before we felt COVID’s financial impact. Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as having limited access or limitations to food.

The USDA reports that in 2018, 37 million Americans were living in food-insecure households, and in 2018, a study showed that around 1.3 million veterans live in a household that relies on SNAP benefits to supplement their food intake. A 2015 study found that about 27% of veterans who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan wars were food insecure with 12% reported having very low food security.

However, recognizing food insecurity among the families you serve may not be as easy as you might expect. Personal Finance Managers could screen clients for food insecurity by asking how often the following two statements were true over the last 12 months:

1.”We worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.”

2.”The food we bought just didn’t last, and we didn’t have money to get more.”

Many programs are available nationally to help:

SNAP-Ed provides resources for consumers and educators including information about nutritious food and how to stretch food dollars.

• The Cooperative Extension System provides state-by-state research, educational resources, and programming to alleviate food insecurity.

• The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) partners with organizations to provide local hunger relief initiatives, such as the USDA Feds Feed Families program that organizes food pantries and food drives and has delivered millions of pounds of food to families in need since 2009.

• Feeding America operates a national network that works to reduce food waste and increase access to nutritious foods. Their website has a search tool for finding nearby food banks.

Join our Oct. 27 webinar, Resources for Addressing Food Access for Military Families to learn more about this important issue.