The Fort Meade USO food pantry, which officially opened in May, provides boxes of nonperishable nutritional foods to military families who request food assistance.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - When Kimberly Maiocco was diagnosed with kidney disease last September, she had to quit her full-time job at a motorcycle company.

Without her paycheck, Maiocco and her husband, 1st Class Petty Officer Michael Maiocco, found it difficult to make ends meet.

"We went right down hill. We were falling behind in our bills and not able to go food shopping," said Maiocco, who also was diagnosed with lupus six years ago.

Since the spring, the Maioccos have received a box of groceries from the USO food pantry once every other month to help supplement their meals.

"It's made a huge difference," Maiocco said. "The people at the USO are extra kind and compassionate. They give you what you need. I always have something to prepare a meal."

The Maioccos are among the growing number of Fort Meade families who use the USO food pantry on a regular basis. The USO serves the installation's active-duty service members and their families.

"We recognize the need to give families immediate assistance," said Queen Waddell, Fort Meade's USO coordinator. "We understand that our service members are making sacrifices. This is an extra way to show our gratitude for their service."

Since the pantry officially opened in May, the USO has provided boxes of nonperishable nutritional foods such as canned vegetables, boxed cereal, and canned beans and soup to families who contact Waddell and request assistance.

The only requirements for using the pantry are to provide the service member's name and rank and the number of people in the family.

The USO relies upon donations and food drives to keep the pantry stocked. When the pantry first opened, a local supermarket provided a large donation that made up about 75 percent of the initial stock, Waddell said.

Popular items are canned fruit and vegetables, canned meats and boxed noodles. Families are referred to local community and religious groups for staples such as milk, bread, eggs and fresh meat.

Although the need for food assistance increases during the holiday season, Waddell said she has noticed that more families are relying on the food pantry. About three to five families use the pantry on a weekly basis.

Many families, said Waddell, are referred to the USO through Army Community Service.

"These are tough times for everyone," she said. "We're just here to help them."

The Maioccos, who reside in Heritage Park, first received help from the USO before Thanksgiving when they could not afford a traditional turkey dinner for their four children. That's when a friend suggested they contact Fort Meade's USO for a free turkey.

"They gave me a box with a turkey, stuffing, gravy and potatoes -- everything we needed for a Thanksgiving dinner," Maiocco said.

The pantry helps the family get through to the next pay check, said Maiocco.

"The USO opened the door to me and saved me when I felt we were going down hill fast," she said. "If [other military families] need help, I want them to know the USO is there for them."

The USO food pantry is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the first and third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 410-305-0660.

Page last updated Sun July 24th, 2011 at 18:23