US Soldiers at Huge Army Base Left Without Reliable Food Access, Report Finds
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Soldiers stationed at one of the U.S. Army's largest bases located in Texas are going without food as the base faces a shortage of cooks to staff its dining facilities.
According to a new report, junior soldiers at Fort Cavazos have very few options or access when it comes to food these days. That's because most of the cooks are deployed, completing a rotation at the National Training Center, or completing cadet training exercises at Fort Knox.
Due to the shortage of staff, the base only had two out of ten dining facilities operating and three other options only open on a limited schedule, during the summer.
The closures have forced service members to drive up to an hour to find meals, but many junior soldiers don't have vehicles.
"For months, one (dining facility) was open and was a more than 30-minute drive for my soldiers," said one noncommissioned officer, who spoke to Military.com. "All the soldiers were going to that one. It's unmanageable during the workday."
Their only option – go hungry.
According to a new report from the Rand Corporation, these junior soldiers join 25.8% of Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard members who are food insecure.
The report from Rand looked at data from 2016 and 2018 active duty reports from the Pentagon to come up with the figure.
"As compared to the general population, certainly the poverty experience is very different," a military installation representative told RAND. "Service members aren't living in poverty in the same way. But...it's also the dirty little secret: that there are service members with families and children making the salary of an E-4 who need help getting food on the table."
It is unclear whether the cook shortage is related to the military's record low recruitment. Last year, the Army was 15,000 soldiers short on admitting recruits.
While the military works to boost recruitment, Army leaders are working to improve dining facilities to raise the quality of life for troops.
Some officials are considering a pilot program that would allow soldiers to use their meal cards at non-military affiliated restaurants, such as Panera or Qdoba.
Currently, Fort Drum in New York is implementing that program.
An Army spokesperson told Fox News that staffing shortages only severely limited food for soldiers at Fort Cavazos in July and by August 1st, five facilities were open.
"We take the health and welfare of our Soldiers seriously and making sure our Soldiers have the sustenance necessary to them is a top priority," the spokesperson said. "Flyers and posters were placed throughout unit areas, barracks, and at all dining facilities to inform Soldiers of the changes for the summer."
"As our operational demands shift, the availability of dining facilities will also be adjusted to meet the needs of our Soldiers. Earlier this summer, the Commanding General established an Installation-level food service board to ensure the best use of food service resources in support of our Soldiers. As of 1 August, two of the largest dining facilities have re-opened," the spokesperson reported.
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