Published On: Sat, Aug 23rd, 2014

New survey shows 1 in 7 family rely on food bank, 1 in 5 of military families

While NPR began their coverage noting the “economic recovery,” a new survey indicates more Americans are struggling to put food on the table and are relying on food banks for help. The data is even worse for military families according to the new survey by Feeding America.
One in seven Americans, approximately 46 million people, rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, the study found. Additionally, 25 percent of military families, approximately 620,000 households, are relying on a network of 200 or so food banks nationwide.
Feeding-America-Logo“The results are alarming,” said Bob Aiken, chief executive officer of Feeding America. “It means that people in America have to make trade-offs. They have to pick between buying food for their children or paying for utilities, rent and medicine.”
“Hunger exists in literally every county in America,” Aiken added. “It’s an urban problem, it’s a suburban problem, and it’s a rural problem.”
Linda Patterson, executive director of Lorton Community Action Center, said stereotypes of the people who need food assistance are misleading.
“The people who come here are hard workers. They are employed. They are the school bus drivers, the lab techs in doctors offices, receptionists, the janitors who clean the floor of your children’s school,” Patterson said. “They just can’t make ends meet because some kind of crisis has hit them.”
The Hunger in America study found that of people who use food banks:
• 26 percent are black, 20 percent are Hispanic, 43 percent are white and 11 percent are other.
• 33 percent of households have at least one family member with diabetes.
• 65 percent of households have a child under 18 or someone 60 or older.
“Children are going to school, not looking forward to learning but looking forward to eating,” said Shamia Holloway, spokeswoman for the Capital Area Food Bank. The Lorton Community Action Center has seen an 18 percent increase in people who need food assistance since food stamp benefits were cut in November, Patterson said.
“Many of our families, if they don’t come, will have to choose between paying rent or their kids eating that night,” Patterson said. The median monthly household income of Feeding America network clients is $927.
Pentagon spokesman Nate Christensen gave NPR a statement after the Defense Department reveiwed the survey results.

“The Department of Defense disagrees with the methodology that Feeding America used to calculate the estimated percentage of military households served by its food assistance programs.”

Christensen also said that military pay and benefits compare favorably with the private sector, and if a service member has financial troubles, counseling is available.

Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, a nonprofit group that supports military families, says service members are often reluctant to seek such help. That’s especially the case now that the military is downsizing, she says.

“People are afraid to call attention to themselves. They don’t know who’s getting picked to be asked to leave and who’s going to get to stay and what the criteria are. And so a lot of these families are just laying low,” says Raezer.

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