According to the USDA 10.5% or 13.7 million of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2019. Graphic by USDA
Bringing food to the table
Located in the heart of the National Capital Region, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall provides health and well-being resources for some 150,000 active duty, reserve component, retired military personnel, Family members and members of the civilian workforce. Together, service providers and partners including the Andrew Rader Clinic, the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Army Community Service team and USO Metro play an active role taking care of the community. Food insecurity is one of the issues these organizations strive to combat.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a household-level economic and social condition of limited access to food. The pandemic has brought new challenges of food security across the United States, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
During the pandemic, the CDC observed that food insecurity affected households with children not attending child care and in-person school, which are sources of nutritious meals for many students, as well as those facing unemployment.
While the pandemic has heightened the impact and awareness of this issue, it had long been considered an important issue by health officials. According to a USDA report, 13.7 million households, or 10.5% of all U.S. households, experienced food insecurity in 2019.
Andrew Rader Physical Fitness and Wellness program
The physical fitness and wellness-working group was established to promote health and well-being to all members of JBM-HH community using a multidisciplinary, proactive and preventive approach. This working group pursues wellness initiatives with the goal of achieving optimum levels of health, social and emotional functioning for the JBM-HH community.
Rader Clinic dietician Jennifer Claro serves as a member of this team. She said people may not know how prevalent the issue of food insecurity is and how many resources are available. Being connected with the available resources and having an appointment with a registered dietitian can help with budget-friendly meal planning and optimizing nutritional intake when a grocery budget is limited.
For nutrition support, Tricare beneficiaries are eligible to schedule a nutrition appointment to discuss their individual concerns and goals. Claro said a dietician could answer questions about food insecurity and help individuals connect with the appropriate resources and services.
No referral is needed and the appointment can be made using the Tricare Appointment Line at (855) 227-6331.
“The thought that any individual or Family may not know where their next meal will come from is a sobering thought,” Claro said. “Food insecurity within the military can impact readiness as well as the holistic well-being of the individual or Family, beyond the more obvious nutritional impacts.”
Claro said the working group is making sure that resources to help military Families experiencing food insecurity are more visible. She recommended several resources members of the joint base could go to for assistance.
Locally, she cited the Arlington County Women, Infants, and Children program. The WIC program can provide nutrition education, help with offsetting costs of healthy food and provide support to pregnant women, postpartum women, and children up to the age of 5.
For Families, Claro recommended reaching out to school districts. The school districts have been giving as many resources as they can to the community during the pandemic, she said. Individuals can check with their school program to see what summer nutrition programs are available.
What is a nutritious meal? According the USDA, when a person looks at his or her plate he or she should see a rainbow of colors. A rainbow means individuals are getting vitamins and nutrients to be healthy. For instance, phytochemicals are nutrients from plants and can help with disease prevention. For visual of what a rainbow plate looks like, visit the USDA’s MyPLATE program at https://www.myplate.gov/.
At the June 17 JBM-HH town hall, Claro also pointed to the Human Performance Research Center as an evidence based resource to learn about nutrition. It covers stress, sleep, performance psychology. To learn about the program, visit https://www.hprc-online.org/.
JBM-HH Army Community Service
Kathy Feehan, director of JBM-HH Army Community Service, said the program offers services to the community that can mitigate the issue of food insecurity.
“If a Soldier is experiencing food insecurity, we have the Army Emergency Relief program,” said Feehan. “Soldiers can apply for emergency relief for food and emergency needs. They can contact our AER program officer, Trina Reliford.”
Feehan said that the financial education services offered by ACS could be life changing. ACS especially encourages first term Soldiers to stop by, so they can be set on a planned financial path for the rest of their Army career.
“We have licensed financial counselors on staff (who) can assist Soldiers (with setting) up a spend plan and help Soldiers manage debt,” Feehan said. “This is an invaluable resource, especially for first-term Soldiers.”
Feehan said that food insecurity has impacts beyond nutrition and hunger.
“Food insecurity has a correlation with anxiety, stress and even suicidal (thoughts),” she said. “This is an increased risk factor for domestic violence, abuse and neglect.”
The ACS Family Advocacy Program can help individuals with emotional impacts, including stress management, anger management, marriage enrichment and parenting, Feehan said.
In the National Capital Region, where the cost of living is higher than the national average, Families may seek to be dual-income. Feehan said for spouses seeking employment there is the ACS Employment Readiness Program. Employment readiness can assist spouses with the job search; resume reviews, interview skills and more.
Families are encouraged to seek the support of a military Family life counselor who is trained to work with the military community. Military and Family life counselors deliver valuable counseling services and support.
Many of these resources are also available for civilians. Feehan said that ACS financial counselors for instance, are happy to sit down with members of the civilian workforce. Employees and teams can also reach out to ACS for stress management and anger management.
For those who wish to visit ACS, note that the services have moved from Bldg. 201 to Bldg. 203. To schedule an appointment, call ACS at (703) 696-3510.
USO Metro Programs
One program that has gained traction at JBM-HH is USO’s MilFam Market. The market is a USO partnership with the Capitol Area Food Bank to provide fresh produce and nonperishable items for the community. This event takes place every third Thursday, rain or shine from 10:30 a.m. to noon and is located in the Tri-Services lot. Those who have base access can attend the market.
Volunteer community event coordinator Carla Moss, has been part of the MilFam Market program since it began Veterans Day in November 2020. Since then, Moss said eight markets have taken place and more than 2,250 individuals and Families have participated.
“(Participants) are coming from all the installations local to the NCR,” said Moss. “It is (unique because) of our location and National Guard and Reserve, as well as veterans and retirees can attend. We service a larger population. Every donation drop has more Family members, retirees and veterans. It’s a great way to stave off food insecurity issues. The whole purpose is to help with food insecurity issues, and to promote overall well-being for the community. “
Moss encourages others to spread the word about the MilFam Market. Spreading the word can help those who need the support.
“With the stress of COVID-19, (knowing where food is coming from) is one less thing a person needs to worry about,” she said. They do not need to worry about providing food for their Families. It is about neighbors taking care of neighbors. (By helping one another), we learn to trust each other and give back.”
In particular, Moss said she does not want anyone to feel left as if he or she is not being helped. She acknowledged that retirees and wounded service members might not be able to make it to the event and they should contact the USO to possibly find alternatives ways for receiving food.
For those who have questions about the MilFam Market, email Carla Moss at email@example.com.
JBM-HH Public Affairs Office