Edmonds Military Wire: Food stamp use among military families increases

Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler

CNN recently reported some troubling news – food stamp usage is increasing among our military families.

Despite the end of recession in 2009, more military families are redeeming food stamps at commissaries to purchase your basics: milk, cheese, meat and bread.

At the close of the last fiscal year, Sept. 30, nearly $104 million worth of food stamps was redeemed at military commissaries.

According to the Military Officers Association of America, “In 2012, there was a 30 percent unemployment rate among spouses of active-duty military who were 18 to 24 years old,” and this is largely the demographic that is redeeming the food stamps.

The good news? Only about 5,000 active-duty military members were on food stamps, which make up less than a10th of a percent of the 44 million that are on food stamps.

Operation Homefront, a national non-profit that helps service members who are struggling financially, received more than 2,900 emergency requests for food help; this was the most requested plea for assistance. Those numbers are down from two years ago, but nearly three times what they were in 2008.

CNN confirmed that the Defense Commissary Agency reported that “the 2013 figure was only a 5 percent uptick from 2012,” which is less than the 13 percent increase in 2012 and the 70 percent increase in food stamp usage among our military families in 2009. Progress, I suppose.

What has traditionally supplemented the income of those who are junior in rank, married with children, is the spouse contributing to the bottom line. The combination of a highly competitive job market in a slow growth economy has made military spouses a less than favorable choice among the private sector because of the uncertainty of when the spouse may have to relocate.

As a result, fewer military spouses are contributing to the bottom line, which is a factor in the food stamp increase.

Bottom line: Should a military spouse answer one of your ads for employment, consider this individual as a potential top candidate.

Traditionally, whether male or female, the spouse of someone who is serving tends to be resilient, skilled at handling conflict, a tremendous multi-tasker and, because of his/her frequent relocations, is rather comfortable meeting new people – so his/her customer service tends to be superb. Let’s all take a part in eradicating this issue.

— By Michael Schindler

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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