DVIDS – News – September is National Hunger Month

By Joanna Reagan, Public Health Nutritionist, Army Public Health Center
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland – With the COVID-19 pandemic and additional economic challenges facing families, the topic of food insecurity has received more attention in the news. While food insecurity can be seen as a problem for the civilian public, there has been very little discussion of food insecurity within the military until recently.

Awareness is a first step in guiding military personnel to resources. As a leader, have you ever worried that a member of the military or a family in your unit is in financial difficulty? Have you ever had a conversation asking them if they were worried about whether they had enough food to last until the next payday?

Leaders may not think about asking these questions of the military or even discussing them in training. However, leaders should be aware that the military can face food insecurity in silence. Leaders can create open and safe spaces to disclose challenges and potential unique circumstances. Leaders should also be aware that food security exists on a spectrum with varying levels of food security and food insecurity.

For example, marginal food insecurity reflects compromised economic access to food. Marginal food insecurity means that some families choose foods that are cheaper but also have less nutritional value to stretch their resources, others skip meals to feed their children or seek food banks and other community resources to join. both ends. Marginal food insecurity can influence the eating and long-term habits of children and adults. Food insecurity is associated with many adverse health effects in adults, including obesity in the general population.

Here are the US Department of Agriculture’s definitions of food security and food insecurity:

1) Food security
a. High food security: No reported indication of problems or limitations in access to food.
b. Marginal food security: usually anxiety about food sufficiency or not enough food in the house.

2) Food insecurity
a. Low food security: reports of reduced quality, variety or attractiveness of the diet.
b. Very low food security: reports of multiple indications of disturbed eating habits and reduced food intake.

The USDA has just released a report titled “Household Food Security in the United States in 2020”, and estimates that 10.5% of American households were food insecure and 3.9% were very low security. food (i.e. multiple indications of disturbed eating habits and reduced food intake), at any time during the past 12 months. Food insecure households (those with low or very low food security) had difficulty at one point of the year in providing enough food to all of their members due to a lack of resources.

Active populations have received less attention in food insecurity research. To better understand the problem, the US Army Public Health Center conducted two cross-sectional studies in 2019 and 2020 at two different facilities using questions from the Hunger Vital Signs survey regarding food insecurity.

The Hunger Vital Signs Survey is a brief screening tool that uses the following two questions to identify families at risk of food insecurity.
These questions were first described in a 2010 study titled “Development and Validity of a 2-Item Screen for Identifying Families at Risk of Food Insecurity,” and published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Pediatric Association.

1) “Over the past 12 months, we have worried about whether our food will run out before we have the money to buy more.”

2) “In the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have the money to buy more.”

In the 2019 APHC survey of nearly 6,000 soldiers at an army facility, one in three soldiers reported marginal food insecurity. This study, titled “Association between Food Insecurity, Mental Health, and Intentions to Leave the U.S. Military in a Cross-Sectional Sample of U.S. Soldiers,” was published in the Journal of Nutrition in July 2021 and selected as the choice of l ‘editor. It found that soldiers who identified themselves as marginally food insecure were more likely to be depressed, anxious, and report suicidal ideation compared to soldiers who were not marginally food insecure. . Additionally, soldiers with these results were more likely to leave the military after their current tour of duty.

The second study was conducted at a different facility in 2020 with a sample of almost 5,000 soldiers and found that 16% were marginally food insecure in the 12 months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, up from 31 % in June 2020. These results were described in an APHC discussion paper titled “Food Insecurity Among Active Duty Soldiers and Their Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic”.
Here are some other results from this sample:

• Before the pandemic, the prevalence of marginal food insecurity among army households was similar to that of the general population. Marginal food insecurity among army households has increased more than 1.5 times with the onset of the pandemic.

• One in seven households (15%) in the military went from high food security before the pandemic to marginal food insecurity after the onset of the pandemic.

• An additional 16.3 percent of army households said they were consistently marginal food insecure before and during the pandemic.

• Black or Asian / Pacific Island soldiers in the household were associated with a 7 and 13 percentage point increase in marginal food insecurity, respectively, compared to households with a white soldier.

• Households with a soldier between the ages of 17 and 29, or households with children were more likely to report marginal food insecurity.

The results of the APHC study are consistent with those found by the organization Blue Star Families in its full report on the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey:

• 14 percent of families surveyed on active duty reported having low or very low food security.

• While low food security is highest among young respondents from enlisted families (29 percent), higher enlisted families also experience it.

• Agents do not experience food insecurity in roughly the same proportion, as higher income equals lower food insecurity.

Why would the military be at risk of marginal food insecurity? Various reasons can contribute to this, such as:

1) Younger population
2) Less experience in financial management
3) Frequent moving
4) Difficulties for the spouse to find a job after moving
5) The military is less likely to participate or qualify for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
6) Duty stations located in high cost of living areas
7) Unforeseen life events such as extended family support, out-of-pocket expenses associated with family emergencies or medical conditions, etc.

For National Hunger Action September, the US Army Public Health Center encourages all leaders and service members to increase awareness of the potential needs of service members and families. Leaders can help with education and direct military personnel to nutritional and financial planning resources.

There are several services on military installations to help solve this problem:

1. Army Community Service (ACS) programs support soldiers, civilian employees and families.

2. Nutrition education with local dietitians through visits to the Commissary and educational programs. Check the web pages for your local military processing center.

3. Community Resource Guide.

4. Emergency relief from the army.

Other resources:

1. Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). To get SNAP benefits, you must apply in the state you currently live in and you must meet certain requirements.

2. Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The WIC program is designed to serve certain categories of women, infants and children. The Women, Infants and Children Abroad program can help families posted abroad.

3. National School Lunch Program (and USDA Foods in Schools), School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program for Children, Food Program for Children and Adults, and Summer Food Service Program.

4. Local food banks and other resources in your area.

The US Army Public Health Center improves military readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and communicating public health solutions, and ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the army’s public health enterprise.

Date taken: 09/27/2021
Date posted: 09/27/2021 2:48 PM
Story ID: 406107
Site: we

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