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Chair Jahana Hayes Opening Statement at Hearing on Hunger Among Veterans and Servicemembers: Understanding the Problem and Evaluating Solutions

WASHINGTON House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Chair Jahana Hayes delivered the following statement at today's hearing titled “Hunger Among Veterans and Servicemembers: Understanding the Problem and Evaluating Solutions”

[As prepared for delivery]

Thank you all again for joining me today for this important hearing, which will help our Subcommittee better understand the food security challenges that our nation’s veterans and servicemembers face.

This conversation is especially significant given that tomorrow we observe Veterans Day, a day for us to honor those who have served for their willingness to protect our nation.

I hope this hearing helps to highlight the moral dissonance between rhetoric about honoring veterans, and the reality far too many face when their service has ended. Food insecurity is disturbingly rampant among our veteran population. On average, about 1.2 million households with veterans participate in SNAP each year. Tragically, studies estimate that a substantial proportion of eligible veterans – as high as sixty percent – do not participate in the program.

Food insecurity particularly impacts veterans who have recently left service, had lower final paygrades, or live in rural or low-income areas that have limited access to food. Their hunger can also be exacerbated by mental and physical health challenges, including service-related or exacerbated disabilities. It is unacceptable that in America today – a country that spends $725 billion on national defense – we cannot ensure veterans do not struggle with food insecurity after their service.

Make no mistake - this problem does not spare our active duty servicemembers, who, despite working every day to serve to our country, are too often unsure of where their next meal will come from. According to USDA, 22 thousand SNAP households included servicemembers in 2019. And it is likely that that is only the tip of the iceberg, as many military families face barriers to accessing SNAP.

Servicemembers and veterans, while related populations, face different barriers and situations that can cause or exacerbate food insecurity. Some of these barriers are common among food insecure Americans, while others are unique and may require targeted solutions.

No person should ever go hungry in America. However, it is especially galling to see those who have dedicated their lives to serving  our nation be left behind as they struggle to put food on the table. Today, we will search for solutions to ensure no veteran or servicemember feels abandoned by the country they served when they are in a time of need. To all our brave veterans and servicemembers, please let me extend thanks for your service from every Member of this Subcommittee, today and every day.

We look forward to hearing more from each of you today and we are committed to working to address this important issue.

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