PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. – A recent report by Feeding America, a hunger relief charity, claims nearly 25 percent of military families are turning to food banks and other charities for food assistance across the U.S.
In Washington, food banks around Joint Base Lewis-McChord are seeing roughly the same numbers. At Fish Food Bank in Pierce County, director Emily Happy said the food bank serves almost 100,000 clients annually and around 20 percent are active military or veterans.
"I think it's very sad, it's disheartening knowing that people who serve our country need food. To me it says there's something wrong," said Happy.
Food banks hear from their military clients about struggles that bring them in. Sometimes it's low-pay; some low-ranking soldiers make roughly $36,000 a year. Others are dealing with poor financial planning, medical bills, or higher costs of living in some states like here in Washington.
Some military families say unexpected situations like a car breaking down and other unplanned bills add up.
"I came in very embarrassed, very embarrassed to have to need this help, but everyone was so friendly and so helpful. And when I walked out of here I felt okay," said Carmen Mitchum, who is now a volunteer at Fish Food Bank.
The Defense Department released a statement saying the Pentagon was reviewing the new report. However, DOD disagreed with the methodology Feeding America used to calculate its estimates. It added the military does offer financial counseling and services.