According to a recent analysis published by the RAND Corporation, slightly more than one quarter of those serving in the United States armed forces have struggled with food insecurity during the past few years.
According to the report that was made public this week, 25.8 percent of personnel serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard were without reliable access to food. 15.4% of the individuals were active duty service members, making up more than half of that figure.
Financial Insecurity For Service Members
The estimate came as a complete shock to us… According to Dr. Beth Asch, a senior economist at RAND and the report’s principal author, “I mean that’s a lot of people,” was her reaction when CNN asked her about the findings.
According to the study, the Defense Department asked RAND to conduct research because it was mandated by Congress in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act for the DOD to report on food insecurity among service personnel. RAND’s research was requested by the DOD.
In order to come up with their estimate, RAND looked at data from the Pentagon’s active duty force reports from 2016 and 2018, and Asch claimed that their estimate was essentially identical to the estimate that the Defense Department had come up with for 2020. Asch stated that the estimation of around 25 percent of service personnel is the most recent evaluation that is available, despite the fact that they were unable to include the 2020 report in their own analysis.
Concerns over members’ ability to provide for themselves financially are not new. The problem was addressed in 2021 by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who said the military would provide relief “to alleviate economic insecurity.” He also directed a temporary increase in the basic housing allowance for service members stationed in certain high-cost areas and stated that the basic housing allowance would be increased temporarily.
Austin made these remarks at the time, stating that “our men and women in uniform and their families have enough to worry about.” “Fundamental requirements such as housing and food shouldn’t be included in that list.”
During the course of compiling their research, RAND conducted interviews with various members of the armed forces, including commanders, on-base officials who worked on financial planning, and community providers. The report states that throughout these interactions, nearly everyone they spoke with agreed that food insecurity was a problem among active duty troops; nevertheless, there were “broad disputes” on the issue’s prevalence.
RAND spoke with an individual stationed at a military facility who stated that the topic of food insecurity “has always been something that’s come up.” Someone other has said that the problem of food insecurity is “greater than we can even get our arms around at this point.”
According to a spokesman of a military base who spoke with RAND, “the experience of poverty is obviously extremely different when contrasted to that of the broader community.” “Members of the armed forces are not experiencing the same level of poverty as the general population. But… it’s also a dirty little secret that there are military members with families and children who make the income of an E-4 who require assistance in order to put food on the table.
However, it has been challenging for outside groups and the Department of Defense to comprehend the origin of the heightened sense of fear. According to Asch, the causes are unclear, and it was one of the things that they left the survey not fully having a hold on. This was partly due to the fact that the Defense Department did not ask them to investigate this particular aspect of the problem in the first place. She stated that it will be really important to comprehend the reasons behind it in order to be successful in putting a stop to it.
She stated that the findings of the investigation pointed to the existence of a wide variety of underlying reasons. And I suppose the question that needs to be asked is to what extent those causes are unique to being in the military.
The reason I say this is because it is common knowledge that members of the armed forces frequently relocate since they are ordered to do so every few years. This can have a negative effect on the military member’s spouse’s ability to find gainful employment. … Is there something about being in the military that’s causing it, or is it just a coincidence? Simply put, we have no idea. We have a hunch that those elements might be involved, but it’s also possible that there are additional factors.”
Indeed, individuals who were interviewed by RAND for the paper pointed to a variety of different potential triggers.
According to the findings of the survey, there are a number of obstacles that prevent service members from accessing treatment. One of them is the social stigma associated with seeking aid, with some troops fearing that doing so will have a detrimental influence on their careers. According to the report, the culture of “self-sufficiency and pride” within the military has prevented members from seeking assistance for food or financial insecurity. Additionally, the report stated that troops are afraid of being negatively viewed by their leadership for seeking assistance in these areas.
According to the respondents, spousal employment issues were another significant factor that contributed to food insecurity as well as financial difficulties. This was especially true when these issues were combined with the difficulties caused by Covid-19 and permanent change of station (PCS) moves.
Despite this, numerous people who spoke with RAND referred to a lack of awareness of money management as well as an inability on the part of some service personnel to create and adhere to a budget.
According to the story, a spokesperson from the installation was quoted as saying, “I think if you look at the automobiles that are on base, you know there are people that are overextending themselves.” “A portion of it can be attributed to the materialistic aspect of our society as well as the pressure to keep up with the Joneses. The identical activity that takes place outside the base’s gates also takes place inside the base.”
Asch believes that there is a low probability that there will be a “single silver bullet” that will solve the problem. She referred even to the method that the surveys are conducted, stating that there should be thought given to whether or not the way families are polled about food insecurity is the best way to go about it. She said this because she was pointing out that the surveys are conducted. She also mentioned that there is a need for additional data in order to truly grasp more about the issue.
She stated that despite the circumstances, it is obvious that there is an issue.
Asch stated, “I believe that the estimate is high, and it is something that is worthy of attention.” “However, I also believe that it is necessary to acknowledge that prior to going into a full-out assault on the problem, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of why this problem is occurring,”
According to a recent study conducted by the RAND Corporation, slightly more than one quarter of those serving in the United States armed forces are currently grappling with the challenge of food insecurity. According to the report that was made public this week, 25.8 percent of people serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard were unable to guarantee their access to adequate food supplies. More than half of those in that percentage were active duty soldiers; it was 15.4%.