It's a disgrace that nearly one-third of the most junior members of the U.S. military have trouble feeding their families, according to a new estimate from one of the nation's largest food-bank coordinators.
But that's only one reason to pay attention to this story. The other is that it says a lot about hunger in our country: what's behind it, and how to solve it.
Feeding America, which works with more than 200 food banks across the country, estimates that as many as 160,000 active-duty military members and their families are food insecure, meaning they have limited or uncertain access to sufficient nutrition.
These numbers are just estimates — the Pentagon has not seriously studied hunger among its ranks, an omission that should be remedied as soon as possible.
But anecdotal evidence from service members tell us a lot about what's going on. Junior-level enlisted members are young, and many have children. Because they move a lot, their spouses can find it hard to get steady work. Increasingly, they are stressed by high housing costs in the areas where they are stationed.
Showing the scope of the problem, a series of charitable organizations have emerged near major military bases to help military families get by.
Food insecurity not only adds stress to the lives of service members and their families but also can be a factor in Americans leaving the service early. In this way, hunger is a national security issue.
But that may be the only way hunger in the military differs from hunger in other families.
Families outside the military, too, struggle with high housing costs, a problem in nearly every corner of the country, and one that is worse for young families.
Wages remain low for many of these families. Single-parent families struggle the most, but other families are forced to choose between low-wage work, with its accompanying child-care costs, and keeping one spouse home with the children.
Just as in the military, some of these families benefit from food assistance and other social programs. But more often, parents struggling to feed their families earn too much to qualify for help, leaving them out of luck.
For service members, the Pentagon is increasing housing allowances. Just as a permanent increase in food stamp benefits made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year did for civilians, the raise will give military households help that better matches their need.
The federal government should also repeal a rule that counts military housing benefits as income for the purpose of food assistance, something it doesn't do for taxes. That would allow more families to get benefits.
Hunger, both in and out of the military, is not inevitable. It is the result of policy choices that put families in a bind.
Portland Press Herald, Maine
20 Bloomington-Normal restaurants we wish would come back
Gil's Country Inn
Gil’s Country Inn, a longtime, family-owned restaurant in Minier, closed in 2013 after the economy took its toll. The restaurant was particularly known for its fried chicken.
Lancaster's Fine Dining, 513 N. Main St., a downtown Bloomington mainstay for nearly 16 years, closed its doors in August 2014. A struggling economy and the upscale restaurant's location in a neighborhood of bars were factors.
Bennigan's, which billed itself as an "Irish American Grill & Tavern" closed its Normal location in July 2008 after the chain filed for bankruptcy. The eatery, 115 S. Veterans Parkway, was replaced by Wild Berries, which was later closed and razed. Owner Tartan Realty Group of Chicago now plans to build a four-unit development at the site.
Lox, Stock & Bagel
Lox, Stock & Bagel closed in May 2004 after 22 years at Normal's College Hills Mall, in tandem with the mall's conversion to the Shoppes at College Hills.
Zorbas, popular for serving Greek food, gyros and breakfast, closed in 2015 after its location at 603 Dale St., Normal, was sold to a developer. The eatery first opened in 1983 around the corner at 707 S. Main St.
The historic Grand Hotel, 1201 E. Emerson St., Bloomington, once served as a winter training quarters for a number of circus acts and was converted into a restaurant in 1937. The property was foreclosed upon by Pontiac National Bank in 2001, sold in 2002 and demolished a few months later.
Mr. Quick Drive-In
The Mr. Quick restaurant at Clinton and Washington streets had its grand opening in January 1966, with burgers starting at 15 cents and coffee for a dime a cup. The restaurant closed in 2001 and the city of Bloomington later bought the site and razed the building so it could widen the intersection.
Chicago Style Pizzeria
Chicago Style Pizzeria, 1500 E. Empire St., Bloomington, closed in 2015 after 22 years in business when owners Abe and Ruth Taha (Abe is pictured above) decided to retire.
Shannon's Federal Café
Shannon's Federal Cafe, 105 W. Front St., opened in 1997 after its owners took over the historic Federal Cafe in downtown Bloomington, which closed two years earlier. Shannon's closed in 2004 because the owners also ran Shannon's Five Star Restaurant, and the demands of both businesses were too much.
Damon's - The Place for Ribs opened in 1995 at 1701 Fort Jesse Road, Normal. The eatery closed in 2006 after business had declined; the site is now a CVS pharmacy.
Australian-themed Ned Kelly's Steakhouse opened in May 1992 in what was the former location of Bob Knapp's in the Brandtville Center (now known as Morrissey Crossing). It closed in August 2007 after the company's four Central Illinois locations were unable to compete with bigger chains.
Arnie's was a popular Twin City eatery for 25 years. Located at the Bloomington airport terminal, it closed in 2003, shortly after the Central Illinois Regional Airport moved to its current location about a mile east. A subsequent restaurant, Arnie's Etc., was open for about a year in the former terminal building, until it closed in 2005.
Diamond Dave's, a mainstay at the former College Hills Mall for 21 years, closed its doors in June 2004 in tandem with the gutting of the mall to create what is now the Shoppes at College Hills.
Jerry's Grille opened in 1999 in Bloomington's Brandtville shopping center, taking over the spot used by another eatery, Henry Wellington. It closed it 2005 and then became Goodfellas, which also closed.
After 33 years in the heart of Normal, Golden West closed in 2002, after the owners received a surprise offer for the site and decided it was time to sell. The building, 712 S, Kingsley St., was later resold to Tartan Realty and demolished in 2003.
After eight years at 407 N. Hershey Road, Bloomington, Ming's closed in 2012. The eatery was facing foreclosure at the time.
The former Central Station restaurant in downtown Bloomington, once a firehouse in days gone by, is now home to Epiphany Farms Restaurant and Anju Above.
Chevys Fresh Mex
Chevys Fresh Mex, 704 S. Eldorado Road, Bloomington, closed in 2011 after being open nearly nine years. The site has also been home to several other restaurants, including a House of Hunan, Shakey's Pizza and Butterfields.
The Caboose, a historic Bloomington eatery at 608 W. Seminary St., closed without fanfare in February 2012. The restaurant, with several owners and names including Chuck's Caboose and Barney's Caboose, had been a west-side fixture for more than 60 years.
Delgado's, a popular Mexican restaurant at 201 Landmark Drive, Normal, closed in May 2005 after after 24 years in business. It is now the location of Los Potrillos.