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    Cal Guard still rolls out food bank missions

    Cal Guard still rolls out food bank missions

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza | U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Miles of the California Army National Guard’s 1113th...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza 

    California National Guard   

    JACKSON, Calif. — The mission just keeps going and going for the California Army National Guard as it comes up on its tenth month supporting food banks across the state that have struggled to meet demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

    “We’re still at it. We’re still going strong,” said Sgt. Joseph Miles of the Cal Guard’s 1113th Transportation Company, while organizing food donations picked up during a supply run in Amador County, California. “We’re at a smaller scale than before but we’re still doing a lot. Food banks are still a priority. We’ve never concluded this mission.”

    Miles and two comrades currently share responsibilities at the Interfaith Food Bank that once hosted nearly a dozen Cal Guardsmen almost every day. The original number of volunteers has dwindled, as COVID-19 still plays a factor. Before, Guardsmen paired up to make a food run — a process of picking up donations from major supermarkets and food vendors in nearby cities and counties — but now Miles drives on his own.

    “This isn’t even the hardest part,” said Miles, who estimates he gathers nearly 3,000 pounds of food on a regular four-hour run. “We still have to go back to the food bank and sort them out, pack them and distribute to the people.”

    Food bank operations were the Cal Guard’s first missions when it was state-activated March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Cal Guardsmen to fill vacancies left by the loss of regular food bank volunteers who couldn’t fulfill their duties at local food banks due to coronavirus restrictions.

    After starting at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, the Cal Guard stretched out to multiple counties over the next few months. Soldiers and Airmen worked diligently to boost this essential program supporting the community. Cal Guardsmen filled various food bank roles, helping to ensure the California community did not go hungry.

    “Families across our state are suddenly losing work, and millions of Californians most vulnerable to COVID-19 are staying home to protect their health and the health of others,” Newsom said in a March 2020 statement. “I ask all Californians who are able to join our Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign to safely assist those in need in your community.”
    At its peak, there were more than 1,500 Cal Guardsmen at about two dozen facilities throughout the state.

    The Cal Guard still works side-by-side with several hundred volunteers from California Volunteers, a state office that provides volunteers for multiple needs throughout the state. The coronavirus pandemic has caused several organizations to partner up alongside Cal Guardsmen to keep communities fed.

    “I will say that the California Guard has been undeniably very valuable,” said Lauren Reid, California Association of Food Banks communication director, when Cal Guard hit the 50 million mark. “There haven't been a lot of volunteers because of COVID-19. The National Guard really stepped up and is doing a great job.”

    At Interfaith, Miles and his teammates’ daily duties include packing food, sorting perishables and non-perishables, inventorying, and distributing to the public. They still load anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds of goods into vehicles.

    “We’re still dedicated to serving the community in any role that we’re needed,” Miles explained. “It’s tough with only two or three guys, but it’s still a mission we’re obligated to perform to our best abilities.”

    In 2020, the pandemic, wildfires and civil unrest fueled the biggest National Guard mobilization since World War II, per the National Guard Bureau. Tens of thousands of Guardsmen were mobilized in all 50 states, three territories and Washington D.C., logging more than 8.4 million duty days. The majority of efforts have focused on COVID-19, with roles in erecting tests, distributing protective equipment and supporting communities in food bank missions.



    Date Taken: 01.14.2021
    Date Posted: 01.14.2021 17:31
    Story ID: 386942
    Location: JACKSON, CA, US 
    Hometown: SACRAMENTO, CA, US

    Web Views: 14
    Downloads: 0