More soldiers used food stamps to buy milk, cheese, meat and bread at military grocers last year.
Food stamp redemption at military grocers has been rising steadily since the beginning of the recession in 2008. Nearly $104 million worth of food stamps was redeemed at military commissaries in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
"I'm amazed, but there's a very real need," said Thomas Greer, spokesman for Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that helps soldiers on the financial brink nationwide.
Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with the battlefield adage: "An Army moves on its stomach." That, of course, means there's nothing like good chow.
For the thousands of U.S. troops who will fight in Afghanistan for another 17 months, it is not just the quality of the food they have to consider. Now there will be a bit less of it.
U.S. troops in Afghanistan for years have been fed four hot meals a day, including what is fondly known as "mid-rats" or midnight rations.
Nutritional experts have long lauded breakfast as the most important meal of the day, but reports that 17 military bases stopped serving hot breakfast have one congressman up in arms.
On January 17, Congressman Bruce Braley wrote to Secretary of the Army John McHugh to express his concern. According to Jeff Giertz, Communications Director for the United States Congressman's office, he was prompted to do so after being contacted by the mother of one of his Iowa constituents who is serving abroad in Afghanistan.
"I am troubled that the Army would deny any deployed troops three meals per day, regardless of force size," Braley wrote in the release.
“These men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect the very freedoms we cherish. The exhaustive mental and physical labor that is required by soldiers to fight in harsh and unforgiving conditions is tremendous. We shouldn’t deny our troops something as fundamental as a proper meal."
As of publication time, Braley had not heard back from the Army Secretary.
While Braley and the mother were concerned that the troops weren't getting adequate nutrition, Army officials note that is simply not the case.
A Texas businessman has reached a settlement with the U.S. government over allegations that his company, a food services contractor, falsified expiration dates on food products and sold them to the U.S. military during the Iraq war.
Samir Mahmoud Itani and his company, American Grocers Ltd., were ordered to pay $15 million, according to a statement released Friday by the Department of Justice.
Federal prosecutors alleged Itani, his wife and American Grocers bought heavily discounted food from leading food product manufacturers, then altered the dates on the packages and shipped them to the Middle East at a marked-up price.
Read $15M penalty for alleged sale of mislabeled food for troops on CNN Wires
U.S. troops in Afghanistan may soon get their burgers back.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, who took over as the senior non-commissioned officer in Afghanistan this month, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday that he was reversing a ban on fast food concessions such as Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken that had been instituted earlier this year.
“For troops to be able to go and grab a burger or a piece of chicken or whatever, I don’t really think it’s that bad,” Hill told Stars and Stripes.
The concessions ban had been put in place by Gen. Stanley McChrystal in February as the military was boosting its troop strength in Afghanistan. McChrystal said the concessions took up space on bases and in supply lines.
“This is a war zone – not an amusement park,” McChrystal’s senior NCO, Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall, said at the time.
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