Coming home to hunger

December 20, 2016
Rachel Widome

When we think of soldiers returning from the wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan, most of us imagine them coming home to a secure lifestyle. But according to a School of Public Health (SPH) study, one in four veterans face a new type of struggle.

“We found that 27 percent of these veterans reported being food insecure,” says Assistant Professor Rachel Widome. “That’s nearly double the prevalence of food insecurity in the general U.S. population.”

Food insecurity is the inability to access a sufficient amount of food for a healthy lifestyle. Nationally, it’s estimated to affect 14.5 percent of the general population.

Widome’s startling higher results for veterans comes from her behavioral health study of 2,000 men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001.

“This is a group of people who served our country,” she says. “And it’s really unacceptable that, after their service, they’re struggling to afford enough food for their households.”

As for a solution, Widome suspects it might be a matter of increasing awareness of this dire problem so veterans in need are connected with help in the short-term. 

“The good news is that there are organizations and governmental agencies that are dedicated to working with veterans,” says Widome. “Part of the solution is connecting veterans with food assistance programs like Minnesota’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which can alleviate food insecurity.”