Rep. Blake Moore co-leads bipartisan Military Food Security Act

Yesterday, Representative Blake Moore (UT-01) co-led a bipartisan coalition to introduce the Military Food Security Act. He is joined by Representatives Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Don Bacon (NE-02), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Mike Levin (CA-49), and House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05).  The legislation would expand eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) by excluding Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) from income calculations that determine eligibility for the BNA, a program designed to support low-income servicemembers.  

For the past three years, Congress has advocated for new and increased measures to assist our personnel facing food insecurity in the National Defense Authorization Act. While Congress established the Basic Needs Allowance in the FY22 NDAA, BNA was narrowly implemented and left many impacted servicemembers still facing hunger.  This legislation would remove Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) from income computation that is calculated to determine servicemember’s eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA).  Members will push for this legislation’s inclusion in the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The removal of BAH benefits from income computation to determine BNA eligibility would better target personnel facing the highest rates of hunger.

“My experiences engaging with servicemembers at Hill Air Force Base have shown me that an integral part of the base’s mission is caring for military families, and therefore I am looking forward to advancing the Military Food Security Act through the legislative process,” said Rep. Moore. “Last year, I joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the fight against food insecurity among our military families. This Congress, I am proud to continue this effort and partner with my colleague Congressman Panetta to advocate for military families and grow this coalition.”

“It’s unacceptable that any portion of our military goes hungry, and that our current programs designed to support our military families are not working as intended,” said Rep. Panetta. “This bipartisan legislation would take steps to address the barriers facing our servicemembers by ensuring eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance aligns with the financial realities and pressures our military families face every day. Our servicemembers and their families have served and sacrificed for our country and should not have to worry about how they will make ends meet, put food on the table, or keep a roof over their heads.”

“Inflation continues to send the cost of basic goods through the roof, and it’s making it difficult for civilian and military families alike to make ends meet,” said Chair Rodgers. “Those who put on the uniform sacrifice enough. They should never have to worry about providing for their family, which is why these bipartisan bills are so important. While they’re not a silver bullet, they are an important first step towards rethinking the way we provide a safety net and temporary assistance to our servicemembers in their time of need.”

“Caring for servicemembers and their families is foundational to military readiness. It is unacceptable that the men and women who serve our country must worry about putting food on the table,” said Rep. Strickland.  “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Military Food Security Act to take care of military families at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and across the nation. We must uphold our end of the promise to our servicemembers and put an end to military hunger.”

“It angers me knowing that those who give so much of their lives to protect our country, would have to struggle with feeding their families—who are also sacrificing for us,” said Rep. Bacon. “This bill is a great step forward in ensuring that our service members and their families are taken care of as they should be.”

“In San Diego, the Basic Allowance for Housing is a drop in the bucket that barely covers the cost of rent. And yet, it’s counted as income – making it look like service members and their families, who are struggling to put food on the table, earn too much money to qualify for SNAP or CalFresh benefits,” said Rep. Jacobs. “It’s shameful that we’re failing to provide the very basics to those who have served and sacrificed so much for us.  Our legislation will take a powerful step forward to right this wrong and help ensure that more service members and military families are food secure.”

“Military families living in high-cost communities, including many neighborhoods in my district, are negatively impacted by the inclusion of their housing stipend in assessing their eligibility for the basic needs allowance,” said Rep. Levin. “The housing allowance is incorrectly considered income, which reduces or eliminates support, leaving military families hungry and unable to make ends meet. Our bill rectifies this issue by removing the housing stipend from consideration as income and opening the doors for families to qualify for the assistance they need. I am proud to join Rep. Panetta in introducing this bill and look forward to it being considered in the legislative process.”

Recent reports indicate that implementation of the BNA does not match Congressional intent.  Only about 2,400 servicemembers will be helped by the basic needs allowance in its current form, or 0.08% of those facing hunger.

The Military Food Security Act is endorsed by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).

“More must be done to ensure food security among our servicemembers and their families. The Basic Needs Allowance must be structured in a way that ensures those who are truly most in need are eligible for support,” said MOAA president and CEO Lt Gen Brian T. Kelly, USAF (Ret). “We applaud Reps. Panetta, Moore, Bacon, Jacobs, Strickland, Levin, and McMorris Rodgers for their continued leadership and work to improve this vital program.”