Across Washington state, Food Lifeline agency partners in communities serving military installations have reported a significant uptick in active duty and retired service members, their families, and veterans needing access to emergency hunger relief.
Last week, Food Lifeline convened a virtual townhall with key members of our state’s federal and state delegations to discuss how to address this trend in partnership with regional community partners on the front lines of fighting food insecurity. We want to first say a big thank you to U.S. Representatives Adam Smith and Marilyn Strickland, State Senator T’wina Nobles, State Representative Mari Leavitt, Geoff Plague from Feeding America, and Sue Potter from Nourish Pierce County for being a part of this important conversation.
Many issues contribute to food insecurity in military families across Washington, but a few key factors drove much of the discussion. Like, how military allowances for families living off-base can count against their eligibility to receive assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the stigma associated with seeking assistance in a culture where self-sufficiency is a predominant value, and low pay for enlisted members that inadequately accounts for regional variations in living expenses across the US.
Leveraging their leadership positions on the House Armed Services Committee, our Federal delegation was strong in their commitment to working towards the inclusion of a Military Family Basic Needs Allowance in the National Defense Authorization Act this year. This would allow active-duty military families who fall below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level to receive an additional stipend to supplement their income.
This was coupled with an impactful showing by our state legislators, who have worked with the Governor to include an additional $31 million in his proposed budget for the next biennium to enhance emergency hunger relief efforts at regional distribution hubs in military communities across the state. We are deeply grateful for our legislative champions who are showing up to help meet the needs of the families we serve across the state this year. If you’d like to be a part of the grassroots advocacy team that will work towards better serving our military families in Washington moving forward, you can join us by clicking here!