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Washington National Guard assisting food banks across state

A member of the Washington Air National Guard opens a crate of canned food at the Food Lifeline temporary site in Seattle, Wash. on April 21, 2020. Members of the Washington Air and Army National Guard are supporting food banks around the state during the COVID-19 pandemic response. (U.S. National Guard photo by Joseph Siemandel)

A member of the Washington Air National Guard opens a crate of canned food at the Food Lifeline temporary site in Seattle, Wash. on April 21, 2020. Members of the Washington Air and Army National Guard are supporting food banks around the state during the COVID-19 pandemic response. (U.S. National Guard photo by Joseph Siemandel)

A member of the Washington Air National Guard closes an emergency food box packed at the Food Lifeline temporary site in Seattle, Wash. on April 21, 2020. Members of the Washington Air and Army National Guard are supporting food banks around the state during the COVID-19 pandemic response. (U.S. National Guard photo by Joseph Siemandel)

A member of the Washington Air National Guard closes an emergency food box packed at the Food Lifeline temporary site in Seattle, Wash. on April 21, 2020. Members of the Washington Air and Army National Guard are supporting food banks around the state during the COVID-19 pandemic response. (U.S. National Guard photo by Joseph Siemandel)

Members of the Washington Air National Guard closes an emergency food box packed at the Food Lifeline temporary site in Seattle, Wash. on April 21, 2020. Members of the Washington Air and Army National Guard are supporting food banks around the state during the COVID-19 pandemic response. (U.S. National Guard photo by Joseph Siemandel)

Members of the Washington Air National Guard closes an emergency food box packed at the Food Lifeline temporary site in Seattle, Wash. on April 21, 2020. Members of the Washington Air and Army National Guard are supporting food banks around the state during the COVID-19 pandemic response. (U.S. National Guard photo by Joseph Siemandel)

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – With businesses and restaurants shuttered, the need for food assistance continues to rise. At the same time, those who often volunteer at area food banks are advised to stay home.

This has created a critical gap that members of the Washington National Guard are helping to fill. Hundreds of members of the Guard are deployed throughout the state to support their community food banks.

This mission started earlier this month and has become essential to ensuring Washingtonians are getting the food they need.

More than 480 Guard members helping out at more than 40 food banks and food distribution centers throughout the state.

Sgt. Kyle Sprague, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment, volunteered to serve at Food Lifeline in Seattle after seeing how the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order was affecting the area.

"When driving through Seattle, you see a lot of boarded-up businesses," said Sprague. "That's a lot of lost wages. When I saw it, I realized that the community needs help and what better way to, to get out and help an organization like Food Lifeline."

More than 200 members of the Guard are helping the Food Lifeline process, pack and distribute food and goods to more than 300 food banks in Washington state.

Staff Sgt. Amber Barker, a customer service specialist at the 194th Wing, has been assisting the Nourish food bank in Edgewood, just 30 minutes from her home.

"I saw that there was a need and I put my name on the list because it's always nice to get out into the community and you don't always get an opportunity to serve in your community when you have a regular job, a family, other life going on," said Barker. "It's a blessing to be able to serve the community. Especially during this time."

Nourish Pierce County operates nine food banks and supports 19 additional distribution sites in the county. It regularly serves almost 7 percent of the Pierce County population. Even more families are being fed during this pandemic.

"You know you are directly impacting your community," said Sprague.

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