National Guard assists FIND/AEC mobile pantry

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California National Guardsman Grigsby directs traffic at the Anza Electric Cooperative/Food In Need of Distribution mobile pantry event Saturday, April 11. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

The Anza Electric Cooperative/Food In Need of Distribution mobile food pantry received a helping hand from the California National Guard Saturday, April 11.

Dressed in camo fatigues and equipped with face masks and gloves, the National Guardsmen directed traffic, helped with participant information forms and loaded cars and trucks with bags of fresh food.

Guardsmen directed cars to the distribution point where the drivers were handed bags of food through their car windows, into back seats and trunks and the beds of pickup trucks. A long line of cars snaked through the parking lot to the food distribution point on the east side of the AEC offices.

Soldiers wear face masks as they direct traffic at the Anza Electric Cooperative/Food In Need of Distribution mobile pantry event. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Many residents of the Anza Valley have lost income due to the coronavirus crisis, causing a surge in the demand – and need – for food.

The California Guard has been deployed statewide to provide critical support to food banks as they disperse much needed supplies to people affected by the pandemic.

Guard members from the 115th Regional Support Group; 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion; 315th Engineers, Vertical Construction Company; 1040th Quartermaster Company; 146th Airlift Wing; 129th Rescue Wing and the 195th Wing were activated for food bank operations throughout the state.

California National Guardsman Avila places bags of food into the back of a truck at the Anza Electric Cooperative/Food In Need of Distribution mobile pantry event. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

In March, when COVID-19 cases began rapidly increasing in California, food banks across the state experienced massive increases in demand while volunteers and staff were unavailable to package, load and distribute food, due to age or vulnerability to the disease. The California National Guard stepped in to fill the gap to ensure meals were delivered to those in need.

Food banks requested assistance through their local county officials who then contacted the California Office of Emergency Services, which turned to the National Guard to help until civilian volunteers could return.

At the request of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California National Guard activated its resources to provide medical support, shelter and food and critical sustainment commodities in the first days of the crisis.

California National Guardsman Castro writes down general information from a participant at the Anza Electric Cooperative/Food In Need of Distribution mobile pantry event. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

In the first week of the National Guard’s COVID-19 response, about 1,000 California guardsmen helped staff more than a dozen food banks across the state.

“I’m so very grateful to FIND Food Bank for obtaining the assistance of the National Guard at the April food pantry event. Their assistance was incredible; by helping direct the flow of traffic through the distribution and loading food into residents’ vehicles, we couldn’t have asked for better and more timely help,” AEC general manager Kevin Short said.

The California Association of Food Banks and its members continue to work to ensure that the most vulnerable communities have consistent and safe access to nutritious food. They are putting solutions in place that will mitigate potential disruptions to their programs and services during this national emergency.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.

California National Guardsman Grigsby directs traffic at the Anza Electric Cooperative/Food In Need of Distribution mobile pantry event. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo
Gloved and masked, California National Guardsmen assist at the Anza Electric Cooperative/Food In Need of Distribution mobile pantry event. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo