Military families cope with higher grocery bills after commissaries close


by Angela Kocherga / KHOU 11 News

Posted on October 4, 2013 at 7:09 PM

EL PASO, Texas  -- Many military families are coping with higher grocery bills since the government shutdown forced commissaries across the country to close.

“It’s going to hurt for a little while,” said Jason Green, a married soldier with two children aged 7 and 9.

He was leaving a regular grocery store parking lot, but normally shops at the commissary at Fort Bliss.

“Usually (we get) meat and we buy all our cereals there, grains and fresh vegetables,” said Green.

The 246 commissaries at military installations in this country and abroad offer tax-free shopping and prices that are about 30 percent cheaper than regular grocery stores. The 68 Commissaries in foreign countries remain open.

“We’re just getting here from overseas. I’m still looking for a job. Money is tight,” said Jennifer Goodwin, who is married to a soldier.

“Wherever we can get savings, that’s what we’re looking for,” said Goodwin, who is a mother of two growing boys, aged 9 and 12.

As some young families scrambled to find discounts elsewhere the commissary closings hit one group especially hard.

“For a lot of our retired military, this is the only place they shop. And for them this is a big blow,” said Joe Salazar, a retired Army veteran.

Many retirees live on fixed incomes and their frustration was evident outside the store when they encountered the locked doors.

Inside food was starting to spoil. The Commissary at Fort Bliss tried to sell perishable goods quickly by slashing prices the day before shutting down.

But there’s concern about the expiration date of food still inside the store.

One of the managers called the El Paso food bank to make a donation rather than risk having to throw the food out.

At the entrance to the commissaries, Halloween decorations hang over treats including cookies and cupcakes.  Now many fear those goodies will grow stale before congress reaches a deal.