Food in­se­cu­rity grow­ing among mil­i­tary fam­i­lies

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - Mid-Hud­son News Net­work

KINGSTON >> Food in­se­cu­rity is a grow­ing prob­lem among ac­tive-duty mil­i­tary fam­i­lies as well as vet­er­ans, ac­cord­ing to Su­san Zimet, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Hunger Ac­tion Net­work of New York State.

Zimet first be­came in­volved in mil­i­tary per­son­nel is­sues when, as an Ul­ster County leg­is­la­tor, she spear­headed the ef­fort to cre­ate an Ul­ster County vet­er­ans’ ceme­tery.

Now, in her cur­rent post, she is shin­ing a spot­light on mil­i­tary fam­i­lies and vet­er­ans who are faced with the in­abil­ity to put food on the ta­ble.

“We ac­tu­ally have our soldiers, ac­tive-duty mil­i­tary soldiers, who are go­ing over­seas, putting their life on the line, and their fam­i­lies are left back here, in New York state, back in Amer­ica, hav­ing to use food stamps to go shop­ping in the mil­i­tary com­mis­saries where the food is al­ready rel­a­tively cheap, or go­ing some­place else so no­body sees them be­cause they are so em­bar­rassed that their fam­i­lies are lit­er­ally on food stamps be­cause our soldiers aren’t get­ting paid enough for their fam­i­lies to be able to pay for food,” said Zimet, who also is a for­mer town of New Paltz su­per­vi­sor.

Ul­ster County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein’s ad­min­is­tra­tion took up the is­sue of vet­er­ans’ home­less­ness and food in­se­cu­rity when it cre­ated the Pa­tri­ots’

Pro­ject, a short-term fa­cil­ity in Kingston to ad­dress those needs for vet­er­ans.

“There is a huge spec­trum when it comes to our vet­er­ans pop­u­la­tion, and we owe them a debt that we couldn’t pos­si­bly re­pay, so the Pa­tri­ots’ Pro­ject is just one way of help­ing a por­tion of our vet­er­ans, but it is re­ally a way of say­ing that we care and it mat­ters and we have enor­mous re­spect for those who have fought for the free­doms we all en­joy,” Hein said.

Josh Pro­tas, vice pres­i­dent of pub­lic pol­icy with the na­tional hunger or­ga­ni­za­tion Ma­zon, said his group has been ad­dress­ing the ef­fort to end hunger among mil­i­tary and vet­eran fam­i­lies, which he said is ex­ac­er­bated by a “quirk” in fed­eral law.

“That quirk has to do with a ba­sic al­lowance for hous­ing ben­e­fits, Pro­tas said. “It’s a hous­ing al­lowance that is given to those in the mil­i­tary who live off­base or in pri­va­tized hous­ing, and it is not counted as in­come tax, and for many fed­eral pro­grams it is not con­sid­ered as in­come. How­ever, for SNAP (the Sup­ple­men­tal Nu­tri­tion As­sis­tance Pro­gram) ... it is con­sid­ered as in­come, and be­cause of that it bumps up their house­hold in­come high enough that they would not qual­ify for SNAP.”

Pro­tas said the main im­pact is om “lower-rank­ing en­listed mem­bers” of the mil­i­tary.

Zimet

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