Jewish group testifies to Congress about hunger in US military families

Julie Wiener

WASHINGTON (Washington Jewish Week via JTA) — The leader of a Jewish nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger in the United States and Israel told Congress that food insecurity is a significant problem among military and veteran families.

In testimony submitted Tuesday before the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, Abby J. Leibman of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, said, “Across the country, service members were (and still are) showing up at food pantries, sometimes in uniform, looking for help in feeding their families.”

Leibman, MAZON’s president and CEO said, “While many emergency food providers have responded by developing specific and innovative programs to assist food-insecure military families, most of these organizations are strapped by increasing demands for services in general and have limited capacity to address this population.”

According to testimony provided by MAZON, there is a food pantry on or near every single naval and marine base in the United States.

Part of what accounts for this food insecurity is federal policies that make lower-ranking service members, especially those with families living off base or in private housing, ineligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, MAZON said. The Basic Allowance for Housing is excluded for calculating some federal programs, like WIC and Head Start, but included for others. MAZON advocates for excluding the Basic Allowance for Housing for the purpose of eligibility for all nutrition assistance programs.