March 09, 2022

Duckworth, Murkowski Introduce New Bipartisan Bill to Tackle Military Hunger


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and is Chair of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Airland Subcommittee, and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) led 12 of their Senate colleagues today in introducing new, bipartisan legislation to support active duty military families experiencing food insecurity and prevent hunger in these families. Duckworth’s Military Family Nutrition Access Act would address this critical issue by excluding Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)—a subset of military compensation intended to cover the costs of off-base housing—from income calculations used to determine Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility.

“Far too many of our military families are going hungry because of unintended barriers that make them unable to access essential nutrition assistance programs that they should be eligible for,” Duckworth said. “As someone whose family relied on these nutrition programs after my father lost his job, and who served in the uniform for most of my adult life, I’m proud to be introducing this bipartisan legislation that builds on the progress we made in last year’s defense bill on helping make sure our servicemembers and their families have enough to eat.”

“Our military families have enough to worry about as they defend our nation and should not have to rely on food banks or food pantries to put food on the table," said Murkowski. "The Military Hunger Prevention Act will support our service members who are struggling with food insecurity by eliminating an unintended barrier to assistance. This addresses the issue of military hunger by providing our service members immediate access to an established program, but is only one step in the process as we generate longer-term solutions." 

Last December, Duckworth secured a provision in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that required the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to create a limited-duration basic needs allowance for servicemembers below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines to assist them with affording basic necessities, particularly food. This bill is intended to create a flexible, durable solution to military hunger that will last past the expiration of the basic needs allowance and reach more military families struggling to put food on the table.

“No American who is serving and sacrificing to protect our nation should ever struggle to put food on the table for themselves or their families,” said Rosen. “With as many as 20 percent of those in our Armed Forces experiencing food insecurity, I’m joining Senator Duckworth and my other Senate colleagues in introducing legislation to immediately address this urgent issue and make nutritional assistance programs more accessible for servicemembers and their families.”

“Our military members and their families sacrifice so much for our country. They shouldn’t have to worry about putting food on the table,” said Durbin. “With the Military Family Nutrition Access Act, we can address food insecurity within the military community and ensure that nutrition assistance programs remain within reach for our servicemembers.”

“This legislation will provide essential nutrition assistance to military families experiencing food insecurity,” said Blumenthal. “Tens of thousands of servicemembers struggle to feed and support their families, but current SNAP guidelines often disqualify them from this federal lifeline. By expanding eligibility and modifying income calculations, the Military Family Nutrition Access Act will help those bravely serving and defending our nation put food on the table.”

“It is unacceptable that any servicemember worries about how to feed their family. We must do right by these brave men and women and ensure that our military families never experience food insecurity,” said Klobuchar. “By expanding access to critical nutritional assistance programs, this important legislation will help our servicemembers reliably put food on the table.”

“Members of our armed services and their families make tremendous sacrifices to serve and protect our country. We must ensure that they never go hungry,” said Gillibrand. “This bill would make long overdue changes to SNAP eligibility requirements that unintentionally exclude service members and make it harder for them to put food on the table. I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of this critical legislation and I’ll keep fighting to combat food insecurity on our military bases and beyond.”

“The men and women in our armed forces should never worry that they can’t afford to put food on their tables,” said Feinstein. “I’m proud to join with Senator Duckworth in introducing a bill to ensure all our active duty service members and their families don’t go hungry. Everyone who qualifies for SNAP should receive those benefits, particularly members of our armed forces who make so many sacrifices in service to our nation.”

“It is unacceptable that those risking everything to serve our country and their families are facing food insecurity,” said Padilla. “The brave members of our armed forces deserve better, which is why I have joined Senator Duckworth in supporting the Military Family Nutrition Access Act to end hunger among our military families.”

“Our servicemembers and their families make tremendous sacrifices to serve our country, which is why it is shameful that nearly 20% of military members experience food insecurity,” said Warnock. “A lack of access to food, which has only been exacerbated by the uncertainties of the pandemic, undermines our military’s readiness.  I’m proud to join Sen. Duckworth in introducing the Military Family Nutrition Access Act, which will improve access to federal nutrition assistance for military members and make sure our servicemembers and their families have more than enough food on the table.”

“As members of the United States Armed Forces courageously serve our nation, we must do everything in our power to honor their sacrifices and provide support for their families,” said Booker. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan legislation that would help address the pernicious problem of food and nutrition insecurity, which affects nearly 20% of military families. This critical effort ensures that servicemembers and their loved ones are able to obtain the resources they need and deserve to feed their families.”

“As an organization that documented the wide reach of military hunger — with food pantries operating on or near every military base in the country — and led the national advocacy effort for policy changes to address this preventable problem, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger applauds the Military Family Nutrition Access Act for meeting the challenge of military hunger with the serious and systemic solution it deserves,” Abby J. Leibman, President and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger shared. “We thank Senator Duckworth for her moral and political leadership. SNAP is one of the federal government’s most effective, powerful programs, benefitting nearly 40 million hungry Americans every year. Yet, low-income service members who struggle with food insecurity are shut out of it because of a bureaucratic anomaly that counts their Basic Allowance for Housing as income for purposes of SNAP eligibility. If Congress is truly committed to supporting our troops, it must stop forcing military families to suffer from hunger needlessly and pass this bill without delay.”

“In our most recent national survey, one in five military family respondents reported being food insecure,” said Shannon Razsadin, President and Executive Director of Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN). “It is unfathomable that the brave men and women who serve our country must worry about meeting their family’s most basic need. MFAN and organizations like ours have worked tirelessly to fill in the gap over the years but, for long-term, lasting change, policy solutions are required. We commend Senator Duckworth for introducing this effort to remove significant barriers facing military families who are trying to access quality nutrition assistance.”

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) also helped introduce this legislation.

This legislation is endorsed by a number of advocacy organizations, including: MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN).