FORT HOOD, Texas – The Department of Defense’s “Taking Care of Service Members and Families” initiative lays out comprehensive actions to support military members struggling with the financial impacts of inflation, supply chain disruptions and the pandemic both here at Fort Hood and across all other installations.
“The department’s added investment in our budget allows us to reduce commissary prices at the register about 3-5% on most items — particularly on food staples that struggling military families need most such as bread, eggs, milk and more,” Bill Moore, director and CEO of the Defense Commissary Agency, said. “With this boost we can achieve at least 25% in overall savings for eligible patrons who shop their commissaries.”
Lori Looney, Commissary Officer at Fort Hood, said many staple items are selling for low prices due to the DoD’s initiative.
“Most of the items are seen in the middle of the store along with the perimeter items: milk, ground beef, eggs, chicken … those along with other items in the store … hundreds of items all (customers) have to do is look for the sign,” Looney said. “The sign is an orange and blue sign that says, ‘Yes!’ on it ‘Your Everyday Savings.’”
Before the additional funding, DeCA was able to provide service members and their families with discounted groceries that cost on average 22% less than civilian grocery stores for fiscal year 2022.
“Going forward with the department’s initiatives, we want to sustain the increased savings through fiscal year 2023 and exceed the 25% benchmark to the extent our resources allow,” Moore said.
Looney said the price drops at Fort Hood have been surprising, especially on milk.
“The most surprising was the milk – $1.81 for a gallon of milk is unheard of anywhere,” she said.
“In addition to the savings, we provide healthy food options, clean and safe stores, convenience and premier customer service for our service members and their families,” Moore said. “Commissaries are there when our military families need them most, even in disasters or pandemics or periods of inflation. We’re an insurance policy to ensure food security for our military families.”
“Taking Care of Service Members and Families” aligns with DoD’s overall campaign for economic security, first announced November 2021 when the department unveiled its “Military Leader’s Economic Security Toolkit” on Military OneSource. The webpage is a central landing spot to help leaders connect service members and their families with resources they need to help boost their economic readiness.
The commissary benefit portion of the economic toolkit is spotlighted on the DeCA website, specifically on its “We’re Stronger Together” page that links military members to the following patron savings and nutrition options:
1. Timely sales promotions as well as specific items highlighted in the biweekly sales flyer.
2. Private label brands and “Your Everyday Savings!” programs that offer better prices on popular core items.
3. Healthy options with dietitian-approved recipes, meal plans and quick, ready-to-eat, economical meal options via the deli and 174 dietitian-approved fueling stations.
DeCA is also expanding efforts to ensure all eligible patrons know about their benefit, particularly targeting the millions of disabled veterans who became eligible for the benefit in January 2020, Marine Sgt. Maj. Michael Saucedo, senior enlisted advisor to the DeCA director, said.
“We are working closely with veterans’ groups to reach our disabled veterans and with the active-duty military to increase awareness of the benefit to troops earlier in their careers,” he said. “And as we spread the word on this much-needed benefit to all our eligible customers, we are striving to anticipate our patrons’ needs, offer premier customer service and do what it takes to be their grocery provider of choice.”
Commissaries are also pushing out more initiatives to include the following to help boost the benefit for eligible patrons:
1. Expanding hours of operation and using technology to improve access in more convenient ways than ever before. To date, 56 stores have converted from six- to seven-day operations, seven stores have converted from five- to six-day operations and 43 stores have adjusted hours to better fit the shopping preferences of their communities.
2. Working with installations on piloting bulk deliveries to barracks or other specified locations with plans to expand.
3. Expanding online shopping and curbside pickup with online payment now available at all stores.
4. Piloting home grocery delivery at eight locations, with agency-wide expansion planned soon thereafter.
Looney said 500-800 customers visit the Warrior Way Commissary every day and she believes the reduced prices will help them greatly.
“I think it’s going to have a big impact on our Soldiers,” Looney said about the reduced pricing. “Inflation is up nine plus percent and our Soldiers are paying more for gas, housing, utilities and everything else and if they can cut (costs) somewhere, I think cutting in the groceries will help them out a lot.”