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OTHER VOICES: Congress must ensure military families don’t have to worry about their next meal |

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OMAHA WORLD HERALD

It is deeply distressing that approximately 160,000 military families struggle to have enough food, especially when solutions are available.

The estimate comes from Feeding America, which coordinates the work of more than 200 US food banks.

“This is a shocking truth that is known to many food banks across the United States,” Vince Hall, head of government relations for Feeding America, told The Associated Press. “This should be the cause of deep embarrassment. “

Representative Don Bacon, who serves the 2nd District of Nebraska and was a wing commander at Offutt Air Force Base to cap off his 30-year military career, said Congress was looking for numbers from the Pentagon and starting work on a fix.

It is clear, he said, that junior-level enlisted military personnel who have families can have difficulty. Feeding America estimates that more than a quarter of the junior enlisted ranks have experienced food insecurity in the past year.

This in part reflects years of stagnant wage growth in much of the U.S. economy, and Bacon notes that Congress has not adjusted the pay scale for lower grades.

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Some of this is being addressed by the market as the country struggles to overcome the still latent coronavirus pandemic. Some workers have taken early retirement, some are staying home for personal or childcare reasons, and some just don’t want to expose themselves to virus risks in mostly thankless private sector service jobs. .

This gives leverage to those still in the workforce, and many employers – the Nebraska Department of Corrections being a recent example – have increased wages. Overall, wages in the United States rose 1.5% in the third quarter, the highest in 20 years of record keeping and ahead of the 1.2% inflation gain for the quarter.

The pandemic has highlighted long-standing issues with staffing, availability and costs of child care services that most young families face.

The problem is also exacerbated by a regulation by the Ministry of Agriculture stemming from the 2008 Food and Nutrition Act. The rule counts a shelter allowance for families living off base as income in calculating eligibility for food stamp benefits. The allowance does not count, for example, as income for tax purposes.

“No one seems to know why it’s still a law,” Hall told the AP, and the USDA has said it is reviewing the policy.

Changing this rule makes sense, but we believe that the best solution is better compensation, as we see in the private sector. Bacon notes that although annual inflation is 6%, the adjustment of military salaries to inflation this year is only 2.7%.

A new pay scale would require congressional action – but we can certainly agree that the nation at least owes these families the certainty of where their meals come from.

Spouses and children of military personnel are not in uniform, but nonetheless sacrifice, in some cases in the face of frequent moves, student loan repayments and childcare difficulties that can make it difficult for the non-military spouse to find a solid job.

We don’t want those who protect our country to be distracted by concerns about starving children. We don’t want to scare off potential recruits or lose re-enrollments from people who might be considering marriage or who are already struggling.

The world’s most powerful nation with the world’s best-funded military that can pay billions for sometimes faulty weapon systems can ensure our military families don’t have to scramble for food.


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