Contributions of non-perishable food to the annual Feds Feed Families food drive are down significantly, but the demand for food by military families, veterans and non-veterans remains high.
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) and its mission partners are supporting the annual government-wide Feds Feed Families food drive, as well as the Joint Base Home Educators’ school supply and backpack drive during the month of August.
The volume of food donations during this year’s food drive is just one-sixth the volume of past years, according to JBAB food drive weekly reports, and the goal of collecting 50 backpacks for needy students is far from meeting that goal.
Needy students, including some of the more than 100 military dependents who attend Leckie Elementary School, need school supplies and backpacks to help them start the school season off well. Just ten backpacks and a handful of school supplies have been donated so far.
Federal employees, contractors, veterans, military personnel and their families, who are able to do so, are highly encouraged to donate non-perishable food, school supplies and backpacks during the drive, which ends Aug. 31.
“Any non-perishable food or hygiene item can be donated,” stated Monika Taylor of Access Housing, Inc. (AHI), of the drive.
Military families and veterans rely on food banks and pantries to meet their demand for food almost twice as much as other Americans, according to in-depth analysis of food bank and pantry data conducted by Feeding America, a nationwide network of member food banks.
One in four current military families use food banks and pantries, nearly double the national average of 14 percent, according to a newly released report. According to the “Hunger in America 2014” report, 20 percent of the families receiving help from food banks have at least one member who has previously served in the military.
“The number of military families living on the financial edge is higher than it should be,” said Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association (NMFA). “If I have limited cash, a car payment to make, and groceries to buy, using a food pantry allows me to feed my family and make that car payment on time.”
Among the most common causes of financial challenges for military families: The inexperience with financial matters that younger military members and families have, as well as the unemployment or underemployment of military spouses and frequent moves, Raezer said.
Raezer said the downsizings of the military, along with pay raises being lower than the Consumer Price Index, are other contributing factors that place more families on the financial edge.
According to the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), “The donations from the Feds Feed Families food drive are especially important, because they come at a time of year when donations traditionally decline.”
Donations made to the JBAB food drive are distributed by CAFB and AHI to needy people and families.
“The food coming from JBAB will be used to feed over 100 needy veterans here, breakfast and dinner,” former Air Force Airman 1st Class Jesse Everette, AHI’s housing manager, said.
AHI is located a short distance from JBAB, in Washington’s Ward 8. It is a non-profit organization, which enjoys a positive relationship with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) and the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). A DVA medical clinic is located at AHI.
Former Army Staff Sgt. Eric Smith, one of the veterans being assisted by AHI, said, “I would never imagine that active-duty military or DOD civilians would be getting involved and helping veterans. That’s a positive thing. It’s a good thing.”
AHI provides transitional housing, job training and other services and assistance for homeless veterans in the District.
“We need breakfast bars, soups, pasta, single serve packs of crackers, chips and nuts, peanut butter and jelly, canned tuna and chicken, bottled water, juice boxes, healthy snacks, cereal, canned fruits and vegetables, spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, heat-and-eat boxed meals, individual sized apple sauces, puddings and dessert items,” Taylor said.
Taylor continued, “We are always in need of shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, disposable razors, shaving cream, African American hair care products, laundry detergent, fabric softener, glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, sponges, dish soap, scrub brushes, paper towels, toilet paper and hand-held can openers.”
“There is so much need, but the donations coming from everyone at JBAB will go a long way to helping,” Taylor concluded.
Military relief societies and chaplains are available to help military members and families, but many families may prefer to go outside the military system for assistance, according to the NMFA. Food banks and pantries, such as AHI and CAFB, serve that purpose, but they cannot do so without the contributions of federal employees, financially stable military members and others.