North Carolina Army National Guard soldiers assigned to the 449th Theater Aviation Brigade helped Action Pathways Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina transport and hand out food in Raeford, North Carolina.
In addition to hauling 30 pallets of food to the distribution site, the group of 30 guardsmen directed cars through the parking lot and loaded cars with boxes and bags of food. Each family received a box of produce, a bag of frozen meat, a bag of potatoes and a box that included canned goods, dry goods, milk, cereal, rice and cornmeal.
David Griffin, an emergency services administrator for the food bank, said it was great having the soldiers there to help.
"G.I. Joe has nothing on them," Griffin said. "Without their help, we couldn't do this today. Without their help, we couldn’t help provide the 20,000 meals that we're going to give to these individuals and families that come through our line."
All together the soldiers loaded more than 27,000 pounds of food that will provide about 20,000 meals for 500 families.
"When I look at the statistics before COVID-19, we had 125,000 people here in south east North Carolina that were food insecure," Griffin said. "If you double that — or maybe triple that with people out of work, people laid off — we all need to come together and make sure our neighbors are taken care of. Hunger can't wait. Food is essential to everything."
The southeast North Carolina section of Second Harvest Food Bank covers seven counties, and the North Carolina National Guard has been helping to plan and execute food distribution, Griffin said.
Army Sgt. Maj. Melodie Hunt, the battalion sergeant major for 2-130th Airfield Operations Battalion said the guardsmen are eager to support their community.
"A lot of them are young and new to the National Guard, and only know the federal mission of being deployed overseas," Hunt said. "Helping out their communities is a first-time experience for them. A lot of them are from this region, so it's a way for them to give back to their own community."
These guardsmen are only 30 of the more than 900 citizen-soldiers who are supporting local health and emergency officials providing support to the people of North Carolina during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's kind of the reason I joined," said Army Spc. Jacob Brannan with 1-130th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion. "It's been an eye-opening experience to see the other side of it, and I just really want to help out."
(Army Staff Sgt. Mary Junell is assigned to the North Carolina Army National Guard.)