Food stamp redemption at military grocery stores, or commissaries, has nearly doubled since the beginning of the “Great Recession,” topping out at $103.6 million in fiscal 2013, from $31.1 million in 2008.
While the amount of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or food stamps, have soared over the past five years, the rate of increase has slowed, according to data from the Defense Commissary Agency and published by CNN Money Monday.
From FY 2009 to FY 2010 the level of spending jumped from $52.9 million to $72.8 million; from FY 2010 to FY 2011 the amount of SNAP benefits redeemed increased from $72.8 million to $87.8 million; from FY 2011 to FY 2012 it increased from $87.8 million to $98.8 million; and from FY 2012 to FY 2013 from $98.8 million to $103.6 million.
The period from FY 2008 to FY 2009 experienced the most dramatic jump, from $31.1 million to $52.9 million, or an increase of about 41 percent.
According to the Army Times, the Agriculture Department’s most recent tally of active-duty military members on food stamps was in 2011, when about 5,000 were enrolled. At the time, that number made up about 0.01 percent of all SNAP recipients and .36 percent of the active-duty population.
Commissaries only track the benefits used, not the status of the individual using them, like whether they are retired or active-duty.
Pentagon officials told CNN that while the military does not track who is receiving assistance, the military members likely to be on food stamps are those at the bottom of the ranks with children, where base pay — not including housing or food — for a new soldier with a spouse and child is about $20,000. With housing and food allowances, an Army private with two years experience would make about $40,000.
Despite the hardships facing some junior enlisted members, the amount of SNAP benefits spent at military commissaries pales in comparison to the national totals, which has topped off in recent years at $80 billion annually, with some 47.6 million beneficiaries in 2013.