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Consumer Watch: Here's where to turn if you need help buying food

Sep. 3, 2014 - 05:51PM   |  
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A recent study by the nonprofit Feeding America concludes that one out of four military households is getting charitable feeding assistance — such as groceries from food banks.

Defense officials question the data and methodology of that study. But statistics aside, it’s a fact that some military families do need help putting food on the table.

The good thing about many nonprofit food programs is that if you’re in need, you’re eligible. Some organizations have income guidelines, but special circumstances can be taken into account.

When it comes to feeding your children, you do what it takes when there’s no money left at the end of the month. These nonprofits are definitely an option for getting nutritious, fresh foods. Find a food bank near you by visiting www.feedingamerica.org, and under “Need Help?” click on “Get Access to Food,” then “Find a Food Bank.”

If you find yourself constantly scrambling to get enough food to feed your family, or having to decide between buying food or making a utility payment, make sure you’re exploring all your options and resources:

■ Find a financial counselor through the military or through civilian resources. Visit www.militaryonesource.mil to talk with a financial counselor to get free, confidential advice about what you may be able to do to improve your finances. You can also visit a financial counselor at your family center on base. These counselors may know about programs or benefits that you don’t, or may find some other ways for you to save money. If you choose to go to a reputable credit counselor in the civilian community at low or no cost, find one by visiting the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website at www.nfcc.org.

■ Consider applying for the Defense Department’s Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance, a voluntary financial benefits program for military families. Active-duty troops and mobilized National Guard and reserve members are eligible. There are monthly income and household-size guidelines. A four-member household in the lower 48 states could earn up to $2,552 a month and still qualify for the allowance.

■ Find out if you qualify for food stamps, which is now called, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; there’s also a SNAP for Women, Infants and Children. Guidelines to apply can be found at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/. It links you to contact information for your local SNAP office. For WIC information, visit www.fns.usda.gov/wic/.

■ Check with military-affiliated organizations, starting with the military relief societies: Army Emergency Relief, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the Air Force Aid Society. Other private organizations such as Operation Homefront can help with emergency needs such as food.

Whatever you do, be careful with how you spend your food dollars. Compare prices at your commissary with other stores. Monitor sales and coupons. Make sure you’re doing everything possible to stretch your money.

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