• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 42s

Why soldiers are increasingly relying on food stamps

By Aimee Picchi/CBS News 4:09 PM February 17, 2014

Patrons of military commissaries used food stamps to purchase $103.6 million worth of groceries in fiscal 2013.

The recent surge in food-stamp spending has prompted some critics to worry that the $76 billion program is creating an over-reliance on government handouts.

What these critics may not realize is that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is also increasingly relied upon by members of the U.S. armed forces, with patrons of military commissaries using food stamps to purchase $103.6 million worth of groceries in fiscal 2013.

That’s a 5 percent rise from 2012, and almost double the $52.9 million spent in 2009. That’s a faster pace of growth than the general population, since overall SNAP spending rose just 51 percent from 2009 through 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One reason for jump in food-stamp usage among soldiers could be the relatively low pay awarded to junior members of the military, with the least experienced active duty soldiers bringing home a little over $18,300 per year. That would qualify a soldier living in a two-person household for food stamps.

But another significant issue facing military families is a relatively high unemployment rate for spouses, with female spouses between the ages of 18 to 24 suffering from a 30 percent unemployment rate, according to a February study published by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. That’s almost three times higher than their civilian cohorts, the study found.

To be sure, while base pay for soldiers is low compared with other civilian careers, soldiers can receive bonuses and non-cash compensation such as free or subsidized housing and education.

The commissary system is one benefit enjoyed by soldiers, with the Defense Commissary Agency operating stores at bases across the globe. Groceries are sold at about one-third less than at commercial prices, which can save a family of four about $4,400 each year, the agency notes on its Facebook page.

Still, pressure on soldiers’ grocery budgets may only increase. The Pentagon is considering increasing prices at the commissaries, one option that would keep the stores open, the Military Times reported earlier this month. The Department of Defense had earlier considered closing the stores.

At the same time, food costs are on the rise for both military and civilian families, with chicken prices jumping 18.4 percent since 2011 and ground beef now 16.8 percent higher.

While grocery prices are jumping, median income is growing by only 1 percent a year. At the same time, the food-stamp program will start phasing in cuts signed into law earlier this month. More than $8.7 billion in SNAP benefits will be cut over the next decade.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Latest Stories

  • DayBreak

    Travel Tuesday: Public Lands Information Center

    by Daybreak Staff on Aug 04, 9:52

    From tent camping to hotel stays, it’s a travel resource even the most knowledgeable Alaskans might want to tap into. Daybreak’s James Gaddis and family fun expert Erin Kirkland met on location at the Public Lands Information Center to learn more about Anchorage’s hidden travel secret. “The Public Lands Information Center is kind of a […]

  • Politics

    CBS News poll: Donald Trump leads GOP field in 2016 presidential race

    by CBS News on Aug 04, 9:25

    By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, and Fred Backus Donald Trump (24 percent) leads a fractured Republican field in the race for the GOP nomination in the latest national CBS News Poll. Behind him are Jeb Bush (13 percent) and Scott Walker (10 percent). Trump leads among a wide array of Republican primary voters. […]

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Aug. 4

    by KTVA Weather on Aug 04, 9:14

    Anchorage Mostly sunny with highs in the upper 70s. Light winds. Kenai and Prince William Sound Mostly sunny with highs in the upper 60s to lower 70s. Southeast Mostly cloudy to partly sunny with some shower activity to the south. Highs in the 60s and 70s. Interior Mostly sunny with highs in the upper 70s […]

  • Crime

    American, Alaska flags stolen from Capitol

    by Associated Press on Aug 04, 7:52

    In the darkness on the last day of July, three unidentified men climbed the Alaska Capitol and stole the American and Alaska flags. The Juneau Empire reports (http://bit.ly/1eQjNwS) that the men were caught on security cameras during the 1 a.m. flag theft on Friday, July 31. Legislative Affairs Agency Chief of Security Steven Daigle emailed […]

  • News

    Bering Straits Native Corp. buys Alaska Industrial Hardware

    by Associated Press on Aug 04, 7:34

    The Bering Straits Native Corp. has reached an agreement to purchase statewide construction supplier Alaska Industrial Hardware. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/1OMM43Q) that the deal was finalized Monday. BSNC officials say it is part of an effort to diversify the company’s holdings. The Nome-based corporation is already involved in government operations, lands and resource […]

  • Crime

    3 men plead guilty in 2013 beating death case

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 04, 7:20

    Three men charged in the brutal 2013 attack of a man sleeping outside have admitted to their role in the man’s death. In a plea deal, 26-year-old David Walent and 20-year-old Jerrick Blankenship pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Lewis Martin pleaded guilty to manslaughter, according to Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion. The Anchorage Police Department […]

  • News

    Kodiak brewery offers welcoming atmosphere with unique beers

    by Emily Carlson on Aug 03, 23:50

    Alaska has one of the highest concentrations of craft breweries in the nation. According to the beer app “The Beer Up Here,” there are currently 23 Alaskan-owned breweries, with at least four more in the works. The Brewers Association says the average Alaskan drinks 12 gallons of beer per year. That’s the fourth highest in […]

  • News

    New ice cream company features Alaskan ingredients

    by Lauren Maxwell on Aug 03, 20:25

    When Elissa Brown sees a beet, she doesn’t think savory, she thinks sweet. Alaskan beets are a prime ingredient in her newest ice cream flavor, featuring Alaskan beets and orange. Brown and her partner Chris Pike started their business, Wild Scoops, at the beginning of the summer. The couple has been making small batches of […]