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Written by: Christopher Sneed, Ph.D.

From college students to older adults, nutrition and food security has become a critical challenge facing American families. Nutrition and food security is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, inflation, and other forces. According to Feed America (2023) food insecurity is estimated to impact more than 34 million people including nine million children in the United States. Among our nation’s active-duty service members and their families, an estimated 24% are food insecure. Solving this complex problem is not easy and will require difficult work across a variety of social and political sectors. 

As financial practitioners with strong connections to the communities served, Personal Financial Managers and Extension professionals are well positioned to assist Service members and their families as they navigate the management of their household resources including their food budgets. Part of this navigation includes offering concrete strategies that clients can easily implement. Below are ten strategies to share with your clients:

  1. Brainstorm.  Guide clients in brainstorming all forms of social assistance, community helping agencies, faith-based organizations, and other outlets that can offer emergency food assistance and support services. The purpose of this activity is to simply start a running list from which clients can work to find assistance. You may find it useful to help participants map these organizations so they know where they are located in their communities.
  2. Take advantage of benefits for which clients may qualify, such as WIC and SNAP. Use WIC vouchers for foods that are allowed and SNAP dollars on foods that cannot be purchased with vouchers.
  3. Assist clients in budgeting SNAP benefits for the entire month if applicable. Determine how much can be spent by dividing the total amount available by the number of times they plan to shop.
  4. Before they shop, encourage clients to check for foods they have on hand. Then, check for advertised sales, specials and coupons for foods their family likes and needs.
  5. Stress the importance of a shopping list.  Encourage clients to create a shopping list before a trip to the grocery store to help prevent unplanned purchases, as well as to save time.
  6. Remind clients to compare prices on canned, frozen and fresh foods. Canned and frozen foods are also healthy and can typically be stored for longer periods of time.
  7. Help clients understand and use unit pricing. Show clients how to look at unit pricing on shelves to compare prices among brands. Remind clients that sometimes store brands are cheaper than name brands even when using coupons or sales.
  8. Help clients develop a shopping pattern shopping once a week or less. More frequent shopping trips cost more in time and often more in money as well.
  9. Work with clients to develop and use a household budget to determine how much can be spent. Consider taking only the amount of cash to be spent. Use a calculator to keep up with purchases. 
  10. Encourage clients to compare the costs of frequently purchased items at the Commissary in comparison to other stores. Help clients to locate the Commissary Store nearest them. Clients can utilize SNAP and WIC at the Commissary. 

For additional resources including cost saving tips, tested recipes, and cooking skills tutorials visit 

Dr. Christopher Sneed is an Assistant Professor and Consumer Economics Specialist with The University of Tennessee Extension. Dr. Sneed is responsible for planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating research-based adult and youth Extension programs in Consumer Economics. Dr. Sneed’s specific focus areas include behavioral economics, workforce development for limited resource populations, programming for limited resource audiences, and programs in family resource management.

Photo Credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

Food Security in Focus

2023 MFRA logo wheat icon in front of a blue starTake advantage of OneOp’s Food Security in Focus collection, offering live and on-demand programming related to food security.

Among our nation’s active-duty service members and their families, an estimated 24 percent are food insecure. Food insecurity adversely impacts racial/ethnic minority populations, lower-income populations, and rural and remote populations. Additionally, a rise in economic insecurity throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to increased food insecurity in vulnerable populations. Join OneOp as we focus on expanding food security for the military family and mobilizing family service professionals at federal, state, and local levels to work together on this issue.