Supply chain shortage hits military as troops face empty commissary shelves

·4 min read

The supply chain shortage plaguing much of the country has also hit Defense Department commissaries where many troops and their families grocery shop, with the situation seemingly more dire for those stationed at some overseas locations.

"Having to ration my son’s milk intake is not healthy for him mentally or physically," one military spouse stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan told Fox News Digital Thursday. "He needs milk for the nutrients it provides. It is also heartbreaking to tell him I cannot give him milk because there is none for me to give him. A mother should not have to have these conversations with their children."

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Photos sent to Fox News from the Yokota Air Base Commissary show many shelves empty, with people stationed there complaining that the meat and dairy sections have been especially hard hit by the shortages.

Yokota Air Base did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.

Kadena Air Base, Japan has been plagued with similar issues, with one Air Force Spouse telling Stars and Stripes that the lack of dairy options left their family unable to make something as simple as tacos.

"The Kadena commissary is kind of lacking in supplies, and we’re wanting tacos tonight," Air Force spouse Valerie Jackson told the outlet. "My husband went the other day and said that there was hardly anything left, like milk, sour cream, cheese."

Some installations in Japan have even warned service members not to expect the situation to change anytime soon.

"For the immediate future, do not expect our commissary shelves to be stocked at levels that we are used to," read a Facebook post by Camp Kinser, Japan on Tuesday, adding they "sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may cause the community, but they are doing all they can to get product to the shelves."

But installations in Japan aren't the only places facing shortages of groceries, with service members stationed in Italy, Germany and Alaska submitting photos on social media depicting empty store shelves at their commissaries.

The problem has even reached the mainland U.S., with service members stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, submitting photos detailing the lack of products.

Shortages have been reported at grocery stores nationwide in recent weeks, as supply chains get stressed by the pandemic, winter weather and labor shortages.

Kevin L. Robinson, a spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency, acknowledged in an email that the pandemic was contributing to supply chain disruptions at military commissaries worldwide.

He cited several reasons, including industry worker shortages, product scarcity, port congestion and the unique complexity of delivering supplies to overseas military facilities. Shortages range across an array of products, but meat is in good supply, he said.

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Robinson said the agency is "doing everything we can" to address the shortages and is prioritizing supplying overseas commissaries.

"We are diligently monitoring inventory levels overseas on a daily basis, working with our suppliers to significantly increase the fill rates," he said. "As the strain is being felt across all of our stores, our store directors, zone managers and our area officials have been engaged with installation leadership teams to keep them apprised of our efforts to keep much-needed products on our store shelves."

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese acknowledged the issues facing supply chains during a Wednesday press briefing, telling reporters that the administration is working to "unstick elements of the supply chain," but he tried to shift the focus to what he called "historically strong economic growth."

Deese said that price increases and supply chain issues are happening all over the world as a result of the pandemic but expressed optimism that the U.S. was making "significant progress" on the issue.

But those shortages can become an even larger problem when they impact military commissaries, where service members overseas depend on the stores to buy American staples at lower prices and without taxes.

Kalani Patsel, commissary zone manager in Okinawa, Japan, told Stars and Stripes that getting products to overseas service members is a top priority for the Defense Commissary Agency.

"There will be times that we won’t have an item in stock for whatever the reason is," Patsell said. "However, I can assure you that we are doing our utmost to try and get the necessities to the customers as quickly as possible."

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