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Huizenga op-ed in the Detroit News: Michigan Guard Deserves Edible Food, Reimbursement

Our men and women serving in the Michigan National Guard have repeatedly answered the call to support our communities, assist with vaccinations and even play a leading role in securing the U.S. Capitol.

While our service members have repeatedly demonstrated their effectiveness and reliability, unfortunately they have been failed in return. Recently, it was brought to my attention by family and friends of the Michigan Guard that our troops in the nation’s capital were being served inadequate food. This was not a matter of bad tasting food; it was about food that was not safe to eat.

As I began to inquire with the Michigan Guard and National Guard leadership about these concerns, I made the decision to join our citizen soldiers for a meal on Feb. 25 to try the food myself. That day the food was edible, however, sadly the food quality again took a nosedive. I soon heard from deployed members of the Michigan Guard who provided photos of food that was nearly raw, severely undercooked, and even contained scraps of metal in it.

On March 2, I led all 14 members of Michigan’s House delegation in a bipartisan call for the current food contract to be voided and for per diems to be issued immediately throughout the remainder of the Michigan Guard’s deployment. Shortly thereafter, National Guard officials confirmed that approximately 50 members of the guard have been treated for gastrointestinal issues, some of whom even needed to receive medical care at military treatment facilities.

Despite this admission, the food contract was not terminated. In response to this, on March 4, I led a second bipartisan effort calling for retroactive per diems to be given to guardsmen and guardswomen deployed to Washington, D.C. This effort garnered the support of 38 of my colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, from more than 20 states.

As I walked the perimeter of the Capitol, I began to make it a point to talk to members of the Michigan Guard. It didn’t matter the shift; it became clear very quickly that the safety of the food had become a widespread issue and our men and women had been paying out of their own pockets for food instead of eating the food provided.

Thanks to the great support and generosity of the Michigan State Society, on March 10 I helped lead “Operation Food Drop” for the Michigan Guard. My colleagues in the Michigan congressional delegation and I passed out more than 1,000 Chick-fil-A sandwiches over breakfast, lunch and dinner to members of the Michigan Guard. Additionally, we passed out snacks and gift cards to help cover the cost of their next meal.  

The next day, I introduced the GRUB Act. This bipartisan legislation will provide a retroactive reimbursement of approximately $43 per day to the men and women of the National Guard from Michigan and elsewhere who were deployed to Washington. I firmly believe an IG investigation into how this contract was awarded and executed needs to occur so this never happens again. It is embarrassing that the men and women serving in the National Guard couldn’t rely on the food served to them at the Capitol.

As Michigan Guard units return home, Congress should pass the GRUB Act to cover the cost of the food they had to purchase with their own money. Let’s pass this bipartisan bill, say thank you and show our support for our citizen soldiers in the Michigan National Guard. 

Congressman Bill Huizenga, author of the GRUB Act, represents Michigan’s Second Congressional District 

This op-ed by Congressman Huizenga first appeared in the Detroit News

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