Public Health Nutrition

Short Communication

Food insecurity among veterans of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Rachel Widomea1 c1, Agnes Jensena2, Ann Bangertera2 and Steven S Fua2a3

a1 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, 1300 South 2nd Street #300, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA

a2 VA HSR&D Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research (CCDOR), Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN, USA

a3 Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN, USA


Objective Food insecurity, or lack of access to sufficient food for a healthful lifestyle, has been associated with many aspects of poor health. While the economic struggles among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been documented, it is unknown how commonly this population struggles to afford food. Our purpose was to document the prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among US veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Design A cross-sectional survey.

Subjects US military veterans who had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001.

Setting Subjects responded to a survey mailed to them in summer 2012. Food security was measured by the US Household Food Security Module: Six Item Short Form. Demographic and behavioural health items were also included. Survey data were matched to medical record data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Results Over one in four veterans reported past-year food insecurity with 12 % reporting very low food security. Food-insecure veterans tended to be younger, not married/partnered, living in households with more children, earning lower incomes, had a lower final military pay grade, were more likely to use tobacco, reported more frequent binge drinking and slept less, compared with those who were food secure (P<0·05 for all associations listed).

Conclusions Previously undocumented, the problem of hunger among our newest veterans deserves attention.

(Received December 16 2013)

(Revised March 25 2014)

(Accepted March 27 2014)

(Online publication May 08 2014)


  • Food security;
  • Veterans;
  • Behavioural health


c1 Corresponding author: Email