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Alarming number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans struggle accessing enough food

Photo courtesy Robert Claypool via flickr

As many as 1 in 4 men and women who served in the U.S. military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have difficulties accessing sufficient food, found new research from the University of Minnesota.

The study indicates limited or uncertain access to adequate food is a prevalent problem among the newest U.S. veterans, a previously unknown facet of the financial hardships affecting veterans.

“We found that 27 percent of veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have consistent access to sufficient food,” said lead author Rachel Widome, Ph.D., in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “That’s drastically higher than the prevalence of food insecurity in the U.S., which is 14.5 percent.”

Widome and her collaborators from the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System surveyed 922 veterans, drawn from VA records, who had at least one outpatient visit at the Minneapolis VA and who served in Iraq or Afghanistan since October 2001.

The study also found veterans are more likely to be food insecure if they:

  • Are young, report poor general health, are not married/partnered or not employed/on active duty
  • Have lower income, reported a lower final military paygrade, or live with children

Furthermore, the study findings indicate food insecure veterans are more likely to use tobacco, binge drink frequently, and sleep less each night than veterans who get enough food.

“Our findings suggest food insecure veterans face multiple serious threats to their wellbeing,” said Widome.

According to the authors, the overarching message was that food insecurity is a surprisingly big problem among veterans, a problem that should be addressed.

“It is unacceptable that so many men and women who fought for our country struggle to afford food now that they are back home,” said Widome. “We hope this research prompts discussion on how to help veterans currently struggling to access food.”

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