SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Working since their initial activation on March 19, Soldiers and Airmen of the California National Guard reached a historic milestone, April 27, packaging more than 15 million meals to serve California's most vulnerable populations.
When California Gov. Gavin Newsom activated Soldiers and Airmen of the California National Guard for the state's COVID-19 response, one of the needs immediately identified was at the state's food banks. Severely impacted by the steep drop in volunteers due to the stay-at-home orders, Soldiers and Airmen of the California National Guard's Joint Task Force 115 filled the gap and got to work.
"In any given month, we're serving over 17,000 families, that translates to more than 55,000 families," explained Suzanne Willis, marketing director, Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz.
As Willis explained, since the stay at home order was put into place and businesses around the state closed their doors, demand for services has increased at a rate nearly double what her organization is used to serving.
"We wouldn't be able to do this without the help of the California National Guard," she said. "We've seen our need grow, and minimally, double in the last couple of weeks."
Across the state, food bank directors have praised the work of the California National Guard, noting they've processed more food in a single day then they usually can prepare in a week. Currently, the Cal Guard has deployed Guard members to 18 counties up and down the state assisting food banks wherever the need has been identified.
"I think the 15 million meal mark is a great milestone for our Airmen and Soldiers out there," said Air Force Col. Douglas Hire, JTF 115 Commander. "They are feeling a sense of accomplishment in working in communities where they live and work.
Hire added there's an extra sense of pride his Airmen and Soldiers feel knowing they are giving back to the neighborhoods they live and work.
"They are able to give back to those communities and, at the same time, meet the Governor's priorities of taking care of the vulnerable populations, and keeping the food supply open," said Hire.