Washington, D.C – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49) today reintroduced the bipartisan Military Dependents School Meal Eligibility Act of 2023 to remove the basic allowance for housing (BAH) from the military’s calculation of income for eligibility in free and reduced-price school meal programs.
“We made a promise to our servicemembers that in return for their sacrifice, we would help take care of them and their families,” said Rodgers. “The fact that any military family in the United States is struggling to put food on the table is proof that we must do better. While this bill won’t fix everything, I’m confident it will be an important step towards providing critical food security for our nation’s heroes and their families.”
In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 24% of active duty servicemembers experienced food insecurity over the course of the year. Even before the pandemic, research showed that 25.8% of active duty servicemembers experienced food insecurity in 2018.
Despite these staggering numbers, many military families who struggle with food insecurity still find themselves ineligible for federal food assistance because their BAH is counted as income. By removing BAH from the calculation of military income, more military families would have access to free- and reduced-price school meals.
“The men and women who risk their lives for our country should never struggle to feed their children,” said Levin. “Though there is much more we must do to improve the financial well-being of servicemembers, this is an important step towards ensuring military families based at Camp Pendleton and across the country can focus on fulfilling their mission rather than on where they will find their next meal.”
The Military Dependents School Meal Eligibility Act of 2023 would also require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide a report to Congress on the feasibility and cost of establishing a program to directly certify military dependents for free and reduced-price school meal programs.
CLICK HERE to read the bill.