A military family could see grocery bills go up by $3,000 a year under the latest Pentagon budget proposal.
Grocery stores for military families, also called commissaries, will be able to offer fewer savings over the next three years as the Department of Defense would slash most of the taxpayer subsidies that prop up these stores, according to the plan released Monday.
Each year, $1.4 billion in taxpayer dollars go to 178 commissaries nationwide and 67 located overseas. The Department of Defense plans to slash $1 billion of those subsidies, mostly affecting the U.S. stores.
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.
The Senate passed a farm bill on Tuesday that ends direct subsidies for farmers and trims $90 a month from food stamps for 850,000.
The House had already passed the nearly $1 trillion farm bill that will set agriculture policy for the next five years. President Obama has said he would sign it into law.
The bill could be passed before the spring planting season. That's significant because farmers need to know early how it might affect prices and what to expect for their corn, wheat or tobacco yields.
Last Saturday, the Loaves & Fishes food pantry in New Haven, Conn., ran out of food.
Run by the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James, the pantry has been pushed to the brink from recent decisions in Washington that resulted in cuts to food stamps and jobless benefits for the unemployed.
For most of last year, the little food pantry was feeding an average of 225 families a week. Then, starting in November, more families started showing up. That's when Congress failed to extend a recession-era bump in food stamps, which cut $11 less from each recipient's monthly grocery money.
The pantry is now feeding 300 families. And things could get worse.
A group of bipartisan lawmakers on Monday agreed to a deal on a farm bill that would end direct subsidies to farms in favor of crop insurance.
The deal could trim as much as $90 a month from food stamps for 850,000 recipients.
The farm bill would last five years and needs to pass both chambers and then be signed by the president.
The bill changes the current agricultural subsidy system. It ends direct payments to farmers for planting crops and replaces it with a revamped, beefed-up crop insurance program.
Starting Friday, Joyce Lewis and her family will lose $44 from their monthly food stamp benefits.
The food stamps buy a lot of economical rice-based meals for the family - four adults and a grandson who live with Lewis in Spring Hill, Florida.
Occasionally, when her grocery store is running a deal, Lewis indulges the family with spare ribs or chicken.
The benefit - totaling $800 for four adults - never lasts Lewis and her family a full month.