RALEIGH, N.C. – Many states are still responding to problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including an increased need for testing and assistance from food banks.That is where the North Carolina National Guard steps in. In late September, more than 170 Army and Air Guardsmen were activated to support their state and ease the pressure of responding to a crisis.One of the areas where Guard members are supporting North Carolina most is at food banks across the state.Mary Maxton, the manager of volunteer engagement at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, said the number of people in need in the 34 counties they support has increased by one-third, from 600,000 to 800,000.The Raleigh-based food bank where Maxton works now has a team of five North Carolina Guard members filling the gaps where their volunteer base has decreased from around 90 volunteers a day to 20.“It’s challenging to be here all day for any volunteer, and I know five days in a row is a lot, so we really appreciate the [North Carolina National Guard] and all they do,” Maxton said. “It’s been a tremendous help. It’s very nice to have a consistent five people coming in every day.”For many of the Soldiers, including 1st Lt. Charles Brown, a platoon leader with the 878th Engineer Company, working at the food bank is a fulfilling experience.“I’m glad me and my guys could help out here,” Brown said. “This is really what I signed up for six years ago, to serve my community.”The five-person team works on all the projects that come through the food bank, including distribution, which brings the Soldiers face-to-face with the people they are supporting.“It’s really great to see some of the faces light up when they get the food that they need,” said Cpl. Dakotah Teter, a combat engineer with the 151st Mobility Augmentation Company.But food insecurity isn’t the only need Guard members are supporting. Several teams are stationed at COVID-19 test sites across North Carolina, including in High Point, where four Soldiers and one Airman are working with Rhino Medical Services at a drive-thru test site.The Guard members register patients to get tested and help with the logistics of operating the site.Burneta Barley, a registered nurse and team lead with Rhino Medical Services, said having the Guard support means the nurses can focus on doing more tests.“We’re averaging between 80 and 90 a day,” Barley said. “Everyone works well together. It’s almost like a family, to be honest, because we spend almost six to seven hours together a day.”Although it is not uncommon for Guard members to support their communities during times of need, the work they do when responding to a hurricane or winter storm more closely resembles their military jobs than the work many of them are doing to support the COVID-19 response.“Going from our regular military jobs of digging in the dirt to helping out with COVID tests, it’s an entirely different monster in my opinion,” said Spc. Bennie Kinley with the 875th Engineer Company. “It’s a different experience when you’ve got people you know in your local community showing up.”Since March, Guard members have helped distribute more than 6.2 million food bank meals and assisted with testing of almost 21,000 people.For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard TwitterHow the National Guard is helpingPhotos of the National Guard responseLatest from the CDC