24% of Service Members Experience Food Insecurity, Posing a Threat To Military Readiness and National Security
Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, announced support for the bipartisan Military Family Nutrition Access Act and her intention to include it in the 2023 Farm Bill. The bill would exclude Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) – a type of military compensation used to cover the costs of off-base housing – from income calculations that determine Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. This change would ensure that SNAP is in line with other federal assistance programs that already exclude BAH in eligibility calculations, such as Head Start, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.
Currently, 24% of service members experience food insecurity, posing a threat to military readiness and national security. Junior enlisted face the highest risk.
“Nearly one-in-four active duty service members experience low food security, making them more likely to face hunger than people in the general population—it’s wrong and it’s unacceptable,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The problem stems from the fact that when SNAP calculates eligibility for SNAP benefits, it is counting Basic Allowance for Housing as income, despite the fact that housing vouchers are not counted for the civilian population. The bipartisan Military Family Nutrition Access Act would correct this injustice and exclude BAH from income calculations, enabling more military families to qualify for SNAP assistance. I plan on including this important legislation in the 2023 Farm Bill because in the richest country in the world, no one should face hunger—especially our service members.”
Fighting hunger has been a cornerstone of Senator Gillibrand’s career. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she is pushing to include several provisions to boost SNAP benefits and address hunger in the 2023 Farm Bill. Regarding military hunger specifically, she cosponsored the Military Hunger Prevention Act, which created the Basic Needs Allowance program to aid military families struggling with hunger in the Fiscal Year 2022 NDAA, and voted in favor of a provision that was included in the Fiscal Year 2023 NDAA to increase the income limit on Basic Needs Allowance eligibility from 130% to 150% of the federal poverty line. During a Senate Armed Services Hearing in March 2023, Senator Gillibrand secured a commitment from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to implement that increase months ahead of schedule.
The Military Family Nutrition Access Act is led in the Senate by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and is supported by more than a dozen senators.