HONOLULU, Hawaii, (April 2, 2019) - Ava Simmons, an Army spouse, a Family and Child Studies major at McNeese State University and the current Family Readiness Group leader for the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command focused her attention on the needs of military families when carrying out a service-learning project for a senior level college course.

"Mrs. Simmons graciously took time and effort to gather feedback from our families who participate in our food pantry and individually spoke to families during our food drive," said Cassandra Payne, the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Branch Director, Armed Services Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) - Hawaii. "The information she gathered helped us plan on what items we should prioritize collecting for our pantry."

According to America's Second Harvest, 15 percent of military families experience food insecurity in any given month. Locally, the estimate is 72 military families with approximately 313 individuals receiving food on a monthly basis through local non-profit organizations.

"The ASYMCA food banks present the perfect opportunity to serve my fellow military families," Simmons stated. "I hope that this project helped to address the food insecurities of many military families in our communities."

Simmons focused on the Wheeler Army Airfield and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Armed Services YMCA locations food banks. There she assessed the needs of the patrons that frequent the selected food bank locations. By conducting a survey of food bank patrons, Simmons was able to gather valuable information concerning the greatest needs for these military families.

"This project allowed for me to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of some military families," she said.

The items requested the most were hygiene products, granola bars, sugar, and breakfast items. Simmons then recruited a team of volunteers who assisted with collection of the requested items.

"The goal of this project was to address specific needs of individuals and families that frequent the ASYMCA food banks," she stated. "This project provided a unique opportunity because it gave the patrons of the food bank a voice and allowed for them to tell me which items they would appreciate the most."

On April 12, 2019, donated items were delivered in time to stock the food banks ahead of the Easter holiday.

"Our food pantry is open Monday through Friday and our food drives are once a month," stated Payne. "We are open to projects like this continuing."

"I challenge anyone who reads this, to drop off a donation the next time they are near the Wheeler or Pearl Harbor ASYMCA locations," Simmons remarked.