WASHINGTON (WJBF) – Ceretta Smith grew up in a military family and later joined the army. Smith, a Grovetown city council member, started as a private first class.
“Had a cute little sports car and was able to take care of myself and really have a good life off a PFC-level pay,” Smith said.
Smith’s finances changed after she had her son. A majority of her money went towards things like baby formula. This caused her to rely on assistance from the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children called WIC. She also ate less healthy because she couldn’t always afford well-rounded foods.
“With that comes those food inefficiencies that a lot of military people and veterans deal with,” Smith said.
The National Military Family Association reported that 14 percent of junior-enlisted military members went to food banks in the last year to make ends meet, according to a 2021 survey. Although lower-ranked members are more likely to experience food insecurity, higher-ranked members can also have problems with putting food on the table.
Besa Pinchotti, NMFA executive director and CEO, believes it’s a disgrace that some military families and veterans have to struggle to feed their families.
“How can they focus on the mission at hand when they know that their families at home aren’t being taken care of,” Pinchotti said.
Pinchotti believes military members and veterans need more support from lawmakers. The executive director said military members and veterans deserve a basic needs allowance. She also believes they need easier access to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program called SNAP.
“The entire family is serving, and we need to think about supporting each and every one of them,” Pinchotti said.
Smith is helping the military and civilian communities through A Child’s World Program. It provides food boxes to school-aged children. The boxes are meant to give children a week’s worth of food.
“I believe we started on the 24th of May and, to date, we’ve given out close to 2,000 food boxes,” Smith said.
The veteran believes it can be hard for military members and veterans to seek help from the community. She believes it’s because many people think service members don’t struggle financially. She said it’s important for her to share her story to encourage military members and veterans to get help when needed.
“We all go through times where we need a helping hand in some way or another,” Smith said. “And when we are blessed on the other side of that, we should reach back and give to others.”