Feature   Defense News

N.C. National Guard Helps Distribute Food During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 8, 2020 | BY Army Staff Sgt. Mary Junell , North Carolina National Guard

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.

A soldier loading boxes of food into a vehicle.
Soldier Support
Army Spc. Jacob Brannan, assigned to the North Carolina Army National Guard’s 1-130th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, loads potatoes and frozen chicken into a vehicle while helping Action Pathways Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina distribute food in Raeford, N.C., May 5, 2020. More than 900 North Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen have been activated in response to COVID-19 relief efforts to support state agencies and their local communities.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Mary Junell, North Carolina Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200501-Z-GT365-0262

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."

A soldier directing traffic.
Traffic Direction
Army Spc. Alonzo Clark, assigned to the North Carolina Army National Guard’s 1-130 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, directs cars through a parking lot where Action Pathways Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina hands out food in Raeford, N.C., May 5, 2020. More than 900 North Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen have been activated in response to COVID-19 relief efforts to support state agencies and their local communities.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Mary Junell, North Carolina Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200501-Z-GT365-0007

All together the soldiers loaded more than 27,000 pounds of food that will provide about 20,000 meals for 500 families.

It's kind of the reason I joined. It's been an eye-opening experience to see the other side of it, and I just really want to help out."
Army Spc. Jacob Brannan, North Carolina National Guard

"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.

Soldiers load boxes of food into a vehicle.
Food Distribution
North Carolina Army National Guard soldiers assigned to 2-130 Airfield Operations Battalion load boxes of food into a vehicle while helping Action Pathways Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina distribute food in Raeford, N.C., May 5, 2020. More than 900 North Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen have been activated in response to COVID-19 relief efforts to support state agencies and their local communities.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Mary Junell, North Carolina Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200501-Z-GT365-0310C

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."

Soldiers loading boxes of food into a vehicle.
Food Supplies
North Carolina Army National Guard soldiers assigned to 1-130 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion load boxes of food into a vehicle while helping Action Pathways Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina distribute food in Raeford, N.C., May 5, 2020. More than 900 North Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen have been activated in response to COVID-19 relief efforts to support state agencies and their local communities.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Mary Junell, North Carolina Army National Guard
VIRIN: 200501-Z-GT365-0229

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.)