Marla Bautista, an Army wife and mother of three, knows firsthand that advocacy can play an important role in building a stronger, more supported community. That's because she was once food insecure and unhoused. And those challenging experiences have shaped her into who she is today while positively affecting how she can help others. "I am a person who has directly experienced homelessness and the obstacles that come along with obtaining safety and security after hardship," Marla shares. "I am honored to share lessons from my experience, while using the applied research from Blue Star Families, to assist our community in places I think we need it most - our homes and our communities."
As Blue Star Families' Lockheed Martin Food Insecurity/Welcome Programs DEPLOY Fellow, she takes on a growing and expanding role while Blue Star Families works to gather more research on the complicated issue that is food insecurity among military families.
The 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey uncovered an ugly truth: military families are experiencing food insecurity at higher rates than the rest of the country. Fourteen percent of active-duty family respondents reported low, or very low, food security, compared to 10.5% of all U.S. households reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2020.
"Food insecurity is an increasing problem within the military community," Marla explains. "Using national and local resources, I hope to bridge the disparity gap between resources and families."
Taking On Another Important Role
Marla is an author, content creator, public speaker, and well-known in the grassroots fight against food insecurity. And beyond those impressive titles, her drive to support military families makes sense, given her firsthand experience as an Army spouse. She felt the time was now to make an even greater impact within this tight-knit community.
"I applied for Blue Star Families' DEPLOY Fellowship Program because I wanted an opportunity to learn how I can make a more significant impact within the military community and military service organization," Marla shares. "I am a military spouse who loves being involved in my community. Participating in the events and opportunities offered by Blue Star Families helped me find my people. We all need to feel a sense of belonging. Blue Star Families gives my family a sense of community."
In her DEPLOY Fellow role, Marla will be working on expanding an understanding of how food insecurity affects military families and assisting with welcome programs. It is the first time the two initiatives will live side-by-side.
Expanding Blue Star Welcome Programs
The current roster of Blue Star Welcome Programs includes Blue Star Museums, Blue Star Welcome Week, Blue Star Books, Blue Star Outdoors, Blue Star Summer, Blue Star Volunteers, and Blue Star Caregivers. Marla, along with the rest of the 2022-2023 DEPLOY Fellows cohort, will continue the efforts to expand Blue Star Families' reach of these programs to diverse communities and encourage representation in those that serve them.
"Our military families deserve a safe place where they feel accepted and welcome," Marla says. "Being a DEPLOY Fellow will give me the platform to communicate the needs and desires for inclusion from families of color. Our military comprises diverse service members, and their families are no different. The services and resources offered should reflect our community, and for so long, they didn't. Blue Star Families' Campaign for Inclusion highlights the voices and the experiences of military families of color, helping us feel seen and heard."
Thank you, Marla, for your commitment and passion to serving our military families through sharing your story and raising awareness of the factors contributing to homelessness, food insecurity, and overall inhibitors to success in life.
Soon, you will have the opportunity to learn more about Marla's work and get to know more of the DEPLOY Fellows. Tune in from September 24th-October 2nd to hear and see the stories from more members of our community during Blue Star Welcome Week. You won't want to miss the week's full virtual program, which will feature giveaways and the opportunity to join in local Chapter events!