When COVID-19 first hit communities across the U.S., food banks faced unprecedented demand for food assistance. Channel One Regional Food Bank and the rest of the Feeding America network have worked to meet the needs of millions of individuals and families, many of whom are struggling with hunger for the first time.
Among those waiting in miles-long food distributions for support are active duty military members and their loved ones.
It is unacceptable that those who serve our country should have to worry about where their next meal will come from. However, in a recent survey of military households, 7 percent reported experiencing trouble getting enough food during the preceding year. To keep their own pantries full, many military households rely on community resources such as Channel One Regional Food Bank.
Channel One provides food assistance to working families and individuals, seniors, and people in times of crisis due to job loss, medical problems, or personal disaster.
Its network of 200 food shelves, pantries and programs extends across 14 counties in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. These counties include Faribault, Waseca, Rice, Goodhue, Wabasha, Steele, Dodge, Olmsted, Freeborn, Mower, Fillmore, Winona, Houston, and La Crosse County in Wisconsin.
Many of our neighbors in these communities are food insecure and are uncertain where their next meal will come from. Active duty military members in the lowest ranks usually make less than $40,000 a year — an income that makes it difficult to afford basic needs like food, especially in areas with a high cost of living. Due to the transient nature of the military, it can also be hard for military spouses to find sustainable work. Similar to many households right now, this means many military families must “make it work” on just one income.
As the nation’s growing hunger crisis touches those who have protected our nation, Congress has the opportunity to protect our service members from hunger. Channel One urges our lawmakers to create a Military Families Basic Needs Allowance and include it in the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The Basic Needs Allowance would provide a monthly stipend to service members whose income falls below 130 percent of the federal poverty line. Through providing extra support for military families to afford enough food, Congress would help ease military families’ anxieties and ensure access to the nutritious foods needed to maintain military readiness.
Channel One Regional Food Bank is already on the frontlines of this moment of crisis to ensure everyone has food on the table. Congress must do its part to ensure we all have enough to eat, including those who have served on the frontlines of other moments of crisis to ensure our nation’s well-being.
Feeding America for Channel One