VICENZA, Italy – When Spc. Noah Gutierrez saw Girl Scouts outside the Caserma Del Din post office one recent afternoon, he thought they were selling cookies.
To his surprise, they offered him rice, canned tuna and other healthy eats.
“That's really great,” said a paratrooper from San Diego, Calif. “It's different from what I've seen here.”
Single Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade visited the Troop 35 Girl Scouts’ food pantry, part of a bronze award project that is integrated with a U.S. Army Garrison Italy effort to improve Soldiers’ quality of life.
Girl Scouts first thought to help people in Ukraine, said Tamia Roberts Gathers, a Girl Scout who took part. Then, they learned Soldiers at Del Din don’t have many food options as most of the food and service spots are across Vicenza at Caserma Ederle. Their “Healthy Eats” project could improve nutritious food options.
“We really wanted to help the soldiers on Del Din,” she said.
A garrison working group, led by Amy Cates, the Community Readiness and Resiliency Integrator, recently changed shuttle schedules to match commissary hours, allowing Soldiers to get healthy food at Caserma Ederle after hours and on weekends. But, the need remained for healthy food options outside the hours of the dining facility, Cates said.
Girl Scouts attended working group meetings and planned their activities. They collected donations at the commissary and brought them to Del Din.
“They have done a really great job with it, getting support for it and taking ownership,” Cates said. “They proposed the idea, answered all the questions and later, they briefed the new commanding general. We put them front and center.”
The bronze award project offers Girl Scouts a chance to look around and come up with ways to help in their community, said Ceci Donigan, Overseas Committee Chair for USA Girl Scouts Overseas-Vicenza. Each of the 18 scouts must earn 20 hours. They will continue the effort into the school year, Donigan said.
The project was a lot of work, but the scouts had help, said Jairy Reyes, a 10-year-old scout from New York City who took part in the recent Del Din event.
“It was pretty easy because the manager of the commissary was really nice and let us put the boxes of the donations, so it was actually pretty easy,” Reyes said. “After we did that, all we had to do was set up this right here.”
Popcorn and chips make an afternoon snack for Pfc. Noah Brennan, of Company B, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion. Soldiers benefit, plus Girl Scouts get to know more about nutrition, he said.
“It’s more nutritious and they’re learning too what's healthy,” Brennan said. “It’s all beneficial.”
Getting some health food also compliments what the dining facility offers, said Spc. Freddy Javier, Company A, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, who grabbed some rice and banana chips
“It’s very supportive of the community,” said Javier, a Chicago native. “It helps people who can't travel to (Caserma) Ederle. Overall, it's a boost to morale.”