CONGRESSMEN BISHOP AND FORTENBERRY INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO INCREASE ACCESS TO NUTRITION ASSISTANCE FOR MILITARY FAMILIES
Sep 23, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) introduced the bipartisan Equal Access to the Right Nutrition for Military Families Act (EARN Act). The EARN Act addresses food insecurity experienced by military families by increasing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for military families.
“Sadly, food pantries and food banks are operating on or near every military base in the United States helping feed military families — a problem made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our service members make a commitment to defend our country abroad and should not have to worry whether or not there will be food on their table at home,” said Congressman Bishop. “The EARN Act proves that bipartisanship is still alive in Congress. While partisan bickering has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, Mr. Fortenberry and I have been working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address this long-standing issue.”
“The men and women who protect our security abroad should not have to face food insecurity at home. I am proud to join my colleague Sanford Bishop in sponsoring the Equal Access to the Right Nutrition for Military Families Act (EARN Act) to streamline military family access to essential food and nutrition programs,” said Congressman Fortenberry.
The EARN Act has received broad bipartisan support, with 23 original cosponsors including Republicans Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), and Richard Hudson (NC-08) and Democrats Jim McGovern (MA-02), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), and Betty McCollum (MN-04). The bill has been referred to the Nutrition Oversight and Department Operations (NODO) subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee. Congressman Bishop is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and is the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and the Food and Drug Administration.
The bill addresses longstanding barriers to military family participation in SNAP with innovative solutions. It removes variability in state administered SNAP programs by establishing a federally administered SNAP benefit program for military families with streamlined national eligibility requirements for military households. It encourages participation in SNAP by requiring the U.S. Defense Department to notify qualifying military families of their eligibility and to automatically enroll families in the program unless they decide to opt out. Finally, it eases the transition back to civilian life by establishing a transitional, temporary SNAP benefit for those leaving service.
The EARN Act is supported by several leading military and anti-hunger community groups. These groups have been instrumental in collecting data on military family food insecurity, raising awareness about this problem, and urging Congress to take action to address it.
“The Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) has been tracking the issue of food insecurity since 2017. In our most recent national survey, one in five military family respondents were food insecure. Our work is informed by the stories and lived experiences of the modern military family. It is our mission to elevate the voices of those we serve, and we applaud this legislative response to combating military hunger,” said Military Family Advisory Network President and Executive Director Shannon Razasdin.
“It is unconscionable that military families continue to struggle with food insecurity and must turn in desperation to food pantries that operate on or near every single military base in the country,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “Since becoming aware of this issue nearly 10 years ago, we at MAZON have worked to remove the barriers to assistance facing military families and advance strategic, long-term policy solutions. We are grateful to Chairman Bishop for introducing the EARN Act, which would take important steps to ensure that military families can access vital nutrition programs like SNAP, and to ensure that no one who makes great sacrifices in service to our country has to worry about being able to feed their family. MAZON is hopeful that this legislation will call more public attention to the long-overlooked issue of military hunger and help build momentum for addressing it through the National Defense Authorization Act and other legislative and administrative policies.”
“In our 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 14% of enlisted active-duty family respondents (across all ranks) reported low or very low food security in the previous year,” said Kathy Roth Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families. “This is an unacceptable reality that has serious implications for military families and our Armed Forces’ readiness. Service members preoccupied with financial and food security concerns are less able to focus on their mission. Blue Star Families therefore supports this bipartisan effort, led by Congressmen Bishop and Fortenberry, to mitigate the statutory barriers military families face to accessing quality nutrition.”