Food assistance: A growing need among U.S. military families

WICHITA, Kansas — A national report released Monday, conducted by Feeding America, indicates food insecurity is prevalent in as many as one in four U.S. military households; documenting a “growing need” for food assistance among military families across the nation.

In Kansas, the trend is similar, but arguably not as bad.

“Our numbers show us that military folks being served, about two percent of our clients are active military and about 14 percent have had military service,” said Brian Walker, the president and CEO of the Kansas Food Bank.

The Kansas Food Bank feeds 22,000 families every week.

“About 50 percent of the clients we serve do not visit a pantry until they’re out of food, so they’re waiting until the last minute to be served,” said Walker.

According to the Hunger in America 2014 report, 620,000 households – that include at least one active duty or reserve military personnel – are receiving help from food pantries and other charitable programs in order to put food on the table.

In addition, 2.37 million more households with veterans are seeking the same food assistance.

Glen Stallard, a Derby resident, joined the U.S. Air Force in 1988. He retired in 2008.

Stallard says the struggle to become financially stable became increasingly difficult as he got older, after getting married and having three children.

“It was hard. The pay wasn’t great. The benefits sometimes outweighed what we didn’t get paid, and they made it up where they could,” explained Stallard.

That’s why Stallard says it comes as no surprise that 25 percent of military families across the nation are seeking food assistance.

“I know that’s been a problem for years now that we’re just not paying our military folks enough,” said Stallard.

As a supervisor in the Air Force, Stallard says he saw a lot of service members with families of their own who were forced to work second jobs in order to make ends meet, as well as troops who relied on food pantries.

Stallard tells KSN the message behind the hunger is simple.

“I just don’t think we take good enough care of our service members. I’ve been lucky,” said Stallard.

To read the Feeding America report in its entirety, click here.

To read more about struggling military families in states across the U.S., click here to be directed to NBC News’ story “Hungry Heroes: 25 Percent of Military Families Seek Food Aid,” a part of the “In Plain Sight: Poverty in America” series.

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