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MFAN Distributes 1 Million Meals to Military Families in 2021

MFAN reaches major milestone in fight against hunger, vows to continue to address issue

The Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) has delivered on our promise to provide urgent relief to military and veteran families experiencing food insecurity. We’re humbled to report that we have officially distributed over one million meals to military families, surpassing our goal at a food distribution event held near Fort Hood, Texas on Saturday, December 18.

In 2019, MFAN’s research revealed that one in eight national survey respondents were experiencing food insecurity. That number rose to one in five in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. When our military families shared that many in our community were struggling to put food on the table, we had to act.

Putting Research into Action

Earlier this year, we designed and implemented the 1 Million Meals Challenge, a nationwide campaign to combat the upsetting trend of rising hunger rates in the military. With the help of CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell, the 1 Million Meals Challenge was introduced on a national stage in April 2021.

The campaign promised to bring together key players – corporate sponsors, military families, food bank partners, elected officials, military leaders, and subject matter experts – to identify both immediate and long-term solutions to food insecurity. MFAN announced a three-pronged approach; hosting local food distributions in areas of the country where food support is needed most, connecting families to ongoing support and resources, and conducting research to understand and ultimately address underlying factors that lead to food insecurity among military families.

A Message for Military Families:

MFAN is deeply committed to finding solutions to food insecurity and we vow to continue the fight in the coming year and beyond. Watch a statement from our president and executive director, Shannon Razsadin.

Removing Shame and Barriers to Support

The 1 Million Meals Challenge has not only helped to feed America’s military families, but has been a powerful tool in elevating the issue of food insecurity to a national, mainstream audience while lessening the stigma and promoting help-seeking behavior.

“So much of the battle against food insecurity is education and awareness,” says Delia Johnson, MFAN’s director of programs and an active duty Air Force spouse. “We’ve heard from the families who have attended our events that they feel valued, appreciated, and that our volunteers have made them feel welcome rather than embarrassed. As military spouses, we can often feel apprehensive to ask for assistance, but the more we can normalize the conversation the more we hope families will seek the help they need to thrive.”

To military families, this has always been about more than a meal. A few of our food distribution event recipients had this to say:

“What a wonderful event and group of people! It’s been such a long time since we’ve felt valued as a military family. Today made us feel cared for and brought tears to my eyes,” said an Army spouse.

“Quick, easy, and loving this event because it helps families out a lot, especially the ones with kids. I appreciate the food that was given because this week we had less money for food due to paying bills. Thank you,” said a Navy spouse.

“Combined with current events and the stresses of military life, the food and the friendly faces made our day. It is a relief to know we won’t have to go hungry. Thank you all,” said an active duty service member.

Our Impact At-A-Glance

In total, MFAN has delivered real results and made a direct impact in the lives of military families through the 1 Million Meals Challenge, including:

  • Distributing over 1,000,000 meals to military families since May 2021
  • Serving over 6,500 military families locally within the span of five months
  • Hosting 12 food distribution events near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort Hood, Texas, San Antonio, Texas, Norfolk, Virginia, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
  • Tyson Foods donating over 400,000 pounds of product
  • Each family receiving an average of 50 pounds of nutritious food at every distribution – including protein, seasonal produce, breakfast items, canned goods, and household products – at no cost

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many heroes at food distribution events throughout the year, and it breaks my heart to see these families struggling,” says Shannon Razsadin, MFAN president and executive director and an active duty Navy spouse. “I am incredibly grateful for the families who have shown up at these events. You put your family first and made it easier for others to do the same.”

All Hands on Deck

This effort was only made possible by the collective will and backing from our partners and supporters.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, Cigna, CVS Health, and Humana Military each sponsored food distribution events. Tyson Foods served as the protein partner for the entire series, donating truckloads of product and providing industry expertise at each event. Local partners Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, Food Care Center – Killeen, Manna Church, Nourish Pierce County, and San Antonio Food Bank provided host venues, staff and volunteers, and logistics support. Food Lifeline, Coastal Pacific, MDV SpartanNash, and the major suppliers of the commissary such as Kellogg’s, P&G, DelMonte, and many more offered hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce, dry goods, and household products.

MFAN’s individual donors and volunteers, as well as the generous viewers of CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell, raised vital funds and awareness. But, most importantly, we’d like to thank our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. You inspire us and motivate us to take action each and every day.

The Road Ahead

While MFAN and its partners have made significant headway and achieved an important milestone, ending food insecurity among military and veteran families is a complex, decades-old issue that will require further response.

Rest assured that we are here for you and this is only the beginning. We are honored to stand behind you, as you have stood behind us all of these years.

“We are just getting started,” says Razsadin. “We’ve already scheduled additional food distribution events across the country in 2022 where food relief is most needed. Next year, MFAN is also bringing together military families, elected officials, civilian leaders, and military service organizations for a solutions summit to identify innovative approaches to alleviate hunger and get food more directly to military families so that they don’t have to attend events like these. We are also working with our partners to make sure that those who interact with military families know how to identify food insecurity and get families the help they need.”

You Can Help Alleviate Hunger

The lines at every one of our food distribution events remained long, a stark reminder that our work is not yet done.

To learn how you can join MFAN in making a difference in the lives of military families experiencing food insecurity, visit combatmilitaryhunger.org.

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About The Author

Derek Doyle

https://militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org/staff/derek-doyle/

Associate Director of Government & Public Affairs

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