Double Booked: Perspective on Food Insecurity in National Security

By Josh Protas

Like many modern couples, when it comes to the numerous responsibilities and duties that keep our household organized and running as smoothly as possible, my wife, Abby, and I divide and conquer.  It’s a constant juggling act of school drop offs, concurrent after-school activities, carpools, laundry, meals, shopping, and laundry that (surprise!) leaves us drained and weary.  One of my regular tasks is making school lunches – far and away it is the task I dread the most.  Is it really that big of a deal? No. I just have to concoct and prepare a healthy and nutritiously balanced meal that includes protein, fresh fruit, and some type of whole grain so that Eli, Noah, and Rosie have the energy they need to power through the school day.  And the lunch has to be something they will find at least palatable. (No pressure!) But I make it worse for myself because I always seem to put off making lunches until right before I am ready to wearily slink off to bed.  The cycle – including the exhaustion from staying up too late and the predictable kvetching that ensues – repeats for five days.

Should I be griping about such minor hassles?  Of course not – especially since I know that the challenges millions of families currently face put my petty complaints to shame. I am routinely humbled by the stories I hear at work: of adults who skip meals so that their children have enough to eat; of children who unselfishly squirrel away part or all of their school lunch so they can share it with siblings at home; of seniors who have to make the impossible choice of paying for food or medicine; of families that fill up on empty calories from inexpensive and processed foods because fresh produce is simply too expensive. That anyone in this country should struggle to put food on the table is hard enough to stomach. But to think that it happens to scores of military families who make great personal sacrifices and put their lives in harm’s way to serve our country? It evokes in me a simultaneous sense of outrage and shame.

How is it possible that some active duty military families don’t have enough food to make it through until the next paycheck arrives? How can military institutions and the federal government permit such an injustice to continue? Why is this problem so deeply hidden and why haven’t there been efforts to enact policies to fix it? (Full disclosure: much of my recent work at MAZON has focused on rectifying this egregious problem.) I know my complaints don’t hold a candle to the challenges faced by these military families struggling to get by.  I still kvetch about the late-night lunch making.  But with a healthy dose of perspective, I also feel incredibly blessed to be able to provide nutritious foods for my children. And I get disgusted that our country could treat those who serve in our armed forces with such disregard.

Josh Protas serves as the Director of Government Affairs for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.  He regularly makes school lunches for Eli, Noah, and Rosie and happily helps to schlep them around to activities in Takoma Park, MD together with his wife, Abby Foss.

Comments are an important part of the conversation. Share your thoughts in the comments sectionThis blog is part of a special RACBlog series, “Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century,” dealing with the many issues that affect working families, and featuring everything from personal stories to policy analysis. Visit the Double Booked portal to read more posts, or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #doublebooked.

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