‘Nourish the Service’ event to tackle military family food insecurity

Event is Thursday at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center at Wright-Patterson.

Credit: Chuck Hamlin

Credit: Chuck Hamlin

While the nation avoided a partial shutdown of the federal government — which would have had members of military working without pay — there’s the prospect of another shutdown in mid-November.

Such shutdowns worsen an already challenging problem: Food insecurity among military families, especially young enlisted families.

Shutdowns “compound an already a visible challenge among our families. It means a delay in pay, not just for current service members, too. Our veterans are subject to that,” said Geri Lynn Maples, a local Blue Star Families chapter director, and herself a military wife.

An event at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center Thursday is meant to help.

“Nourish the Service” is open to the military and veterans families, anyone who has a military connection of some sort. The event is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Hope Hotel, just outside Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s gate 12A off Ohio 444.

Those who wish to attend are asked to register at this website. But even if you aren’t able to register, those with military or veteran connections can still participate, Maples said.

The event will distribute 400 boxes of nonperishable food, 400 boxes of personal care items and 400 boxes of household items. Southwestern Ohio organizations, including the United Way and veterans’ service organizations, will also be on hand.

Maples, a Miami University assistant professor of computer and information technology, knows the struggle well. She is a caregiver to her husband, Robert, who served in the Army and Ohio National Guard for more than 20 years.

She became an Army wife at the age of 20. “Our families really had to depend on my parents and his parents for things such as diapers and baby formula,” Maples recalled in an interview Monday. “We were on WIC during that time. And then after 9-11 ... when he (her husband) came home, that struggle didn’t stop.”

Maples’ husband sustained injuries during service, including a traumatic brain injury.

Maple’s family was hardly alone. She hears from families on deployment, struggling with the costs of food and child care. In 2020, 24% of active-duty service members experienced food insecurity, according to the Department of Defense. The Military Family Advisory Network says its research shows that 1 in 6 military and veterans families are experiencing food insecurity.

Had the government shut down last weekend, key federal benefits, including food support programs, may not have been available after a certain point. And according to a Blue Star Families’ Military Lifestyle Survey, one in four Ohio military families rely on those benefits.

According to the organization, 17% of survey respondents said they relied on local food pantries at some point; 6% said they relived on SNAP (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), 2% turned to the WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) program while 5% relied on the NSLP or National School Lunch Program.

This is not a new problem, Maples said.

“We have a lot of families who are using things like WIC and SNAP and programs like that just to make things meet,” she said. “It really is alarming.”

“Nourish the Service” is about more than providing families with what they they need now. It’s about connecting them to resources such as the United Way and veterans organizations, Maples said.

United Way has its 211 assistance line, she said. For any family that needs assistance for rent or utilities, Maples encourages them to call 211.

If you miss Thursday’s event, the next “Nourish the Service” event for military and veterans families will be Oct. 14 at the Butler County fairgrounds, 1715 Fairgrove Ave, Hamilton.

The Butler County event will be drive-through only. Registration for that event can be found here.

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