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Military families, military retirees and others with shopping privileges on military bases redeemed nearly $104 million worth of food stamps at commissaries in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That’s a 5 percent increase from 2012 and the highest it’s ever been.
According to CNN Money, food stamp usage at military commissaries has more than tripled since the Great Recession in 2008.
That outpaces the growth in food stamp use by the general population, says CBS MoneyWatch.
“I’m amazed, but there’s a very real need,” Thomas Greer told CNN. Greer is a spokesman for Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that provides financial and emergency assistance to some of the country’s lowest-paid service members. Greer said that in 2013, Operation Homefront received 2,968 emergency requests for food help, nearly three times the number in 2008.
A number of factors reportedly have contributed to the upswing in military family food stamp usage.
- Eligibility changes. More military families qualified for food stamps after some states lowered eligibility requirements during the recession.
- Low pay. New soldiers earn about $20,000 annually. The government doesn’t consider the value of government-provided housing when determining military families’ eligibility for food stamps, according to Military OneSource, a Department of Defense-funded program.
- Spousal unemployment. The unemployment rate for military spouses ages 18-24 was a whopping 30 percent in 2012. The economic climate and frequent relocations for military families have made it difficult for military spouses to find work, according to a 2013 military spouse survey.
Congress recently cut funding for the food stamp program — which impacts military and civilian families. Meanwhile, Military Times reports that the Pentagon is considering raising prices at commissaries.