Food Security for All Veterans Act Is Passed By the House

The House of Representatives recently passed the Food Security for All Veterans Act on Sept. 29.  The legislation was introduced by Representative Mary Peltola (D-AK), her first proposed bill since being sworn in on Sept. 13.  

The bill will create the Office of Food Security, which will “disseminate information to veterans about federal nutrition assistance programs, collaborate with other program offices to identify and treat veterans at risk of or experiencing food insecurity, and support the work of VA medical centers with state and local offices that administer the nutrition assistant programs,” according to the Congressional Budget Office.  

The Office will “develop and provide training, including training that may count towards continuing education or licensure requirements, for social workers, dietitians, chaplains, and other clinicians on how to assist veterans” from the text of the proposed act. This is important as decreasing veteran food insecurity cannot always be approached the same way as decreasing food insecurity for the rest of the nation.

It passed with bipartisan support by a wide margin, with 376 representatives voting in favor of the book, and only 49 voting against it.  

Food security is an important issue for veterans.  In 2021, the Department of Agriculture conducted a study showing that working-age veterans are at a 7.4% greater risk of food insecurity than non-veterans, and that percentage is even higher with disabled veterans.  Several government programs are currently available to address this problem.  For example, veterans facing food insecurity are able to enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or apply to receive food stamps.  These are not specifically focused on providing for veterans, though.  A more veteran-targeted program is the Veterans Pantry Pilot program, a partnership between the Department of Veteran Affairs and Feed America which works to ensure food security for veterans.  

“We need to double our efforts in combating food insecurity for veterans.  These people put their lives on the line to serve our country, and now it’s our turn and responsibility to serve these brave men and women,” said sophomore Dylan Miglio.  

Food insecurity is not the only problem facing veterans in this country.  In January 2019, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported that there were 37,085 homeless veterans.  This increases food insecurity for many, because they may not know where they are going to sleep that night, let alone be able to go out in search of food.  Yet, many veterans who own or rent homes and apartments still suffer from food insecurity.  The problem affects all veterans with a disregard for background or current positions.  

The 49 nay votes for the bill were all from members of the Republican Party, resulting in a backlash against the representatives and the Republican Party as a whole.  

“I find it hypocritical that the party that claims to back veterans would vote against this bill that would lend them a hand,” said sophomore Diego Barrera.  

However, some came to the defense of the Republican nay votes.  Former Ohio Senate candidate Mark Pukita criticized the bill as an expansion of “an already bloated federal bureaucracy.”  The federal government has often been accused of both inefficiency and the wasting of taxpayer dollars.  The current federal budget deficit is $2.8 trillion and the national debt stands at over $30 trillion.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) released a report last year that found more than $54 billion in wasteful government spending.

“I think the federal government is like this giant black hole of taxpayer money.  Veterans are great people but this bill does little to help them and we don’t need to spend money on things that we don’t need,” said sophomore James Welch.  

Although the Food Security for All Act will connect veterans to existing programs, as well as conduct studies of veteran food insecurity, no new programs are created by it to directly combat the issue.  This criticism was acknowledged when Peltola introduced the legislation.

“I know this will not solve the problem entirely, but I believe it will help in Alaska and throughout the country,” said Representative Peltola.  

The bill, nevertheless, will take an important step in understanding why food insecurity occurs at such a greater rate for veterans than for the average American.  It will also delve into understanding why veterans tend to take less advantage of food support programs than the average American.  The final goal is to understand these issues and be able to provide food security for more veterans in a more efficient and productive manner.