When Mary Smallenburg, 35, of Fort Belvoir, Va., opened a package from her mother to find cereal and ramen noodles, she burst into tears. Without it, she wouldn’t be able to feed her four children.
“It got to the point where I opened my pantry and there was nothing. Nothing. What was I going to feed my kids?” Smallenburg said, adjusting a bag of fresh groceries on her arm.
Smallenburg’s family is one of 50 military families that regularly visit the Lorton Community Action Center food bank. Volunteers wave a familiar hello as she walks in the door.
“None of what we have been through has been expected,” Smallenburg said. Three of her four children have special needs, and her husband is deployed in Korea. “The last few months, actually, coming here has been a godsend.”
Nationwide, 25 percent of military families — 620,000 households — need help putting food on the table, according to a study by Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks.
“The results are alarming,” said Bob Aiken, chief executive officer of Feeding America. “It means that people in America have to make trade-offs. They have to pick between buying food for their children or paying for utilities, rent and medicine.”
One in seven Americans — 46 million people — rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, the study found.
“Hunger exists in literally every county in America,” Aiken said. “It’s ...