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hunger in america

Survey finds that 25 percent of military families need help putting food on the table

A new report by hunger relief charity Feeding America says that 620,000 U.S. households with at least one soldier, reservist, or guardsman — 25 percent of the country's active duty and reserve military personnel — need assistance from food pantries and aid programs.

The "Hunger in America 2014" report, released Monday, comes out every four years. For active duty military members, it can be difficult to purchase food due to low pay, poor financial planning by younger soldiers, and a higher cost of living in certain states.

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in a statement that the Pentagon is looking at the results, and is "concerned with anything that impacts the wellness and readiness of service members and families." The Pentagon issued its lowest pay raise in 50 years in 2014, the Military Officers Association of America says: just 1 percent.

Retired Army Col. Mike Barron, the MOAA's deputy director of government relations, told NBC News that financial struggles cause "more stress on the force, more stress on the service member, more stress on their family."

To raise extra money, family members recycle bottles and cans, clip coupons, purchase groceries at dollar stores, avoid paying other bills, and sign up for WIC and food stamps — the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey found that in 2009-2012, 2 percent of troops and 7 percent of veterans received food stamps. Shirley Starkey, whose husband is a sergeant in the Marines, tells NBC News that "it's hard to know that my husband is fighting for his country and he's working long days and long hours and we still have to struggle to keep food on the table and gas in our cars."