SPRINGFIELD, Ohio --
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio— More than two months after Governor Mike DeWine activated members of the Ohio National Guard to assist with food distribution at food banks statewide, the need in the community for the Ohio National Guard’s assistance is still prevalent.
As the State slowly begins to reopen and life returns to a new normal, Ohio National Guard members across the state continue to work hard in supporting their local community members through food packaging and distribution.
Nine members assigned to the 178th Wing and the 123rd Air Control Squadron, the wing’s geographically separated unit, began serving their local community at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Springfield, Ohio.
The team of nine Airmen were activated in order to assist the Ohio Army National Guard's 237th Support Battalion, Echo Company with packaging food boxes and distributing them to community members through residential deliveries, offsite mobile distributions and onsite drive-thru distributions at the food bank.
“We were refreshing reinforcements,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Staten, a defender assigned to the 178th Security Forces Squadron. “All of the Airmen and Soldiers here came together as a team and work very well together.”
On average, the Airmen and Soldiers package 500 boxes of food a day and then distribute these boxes to nearly 1,000 people a week in Champaign, Logan and Clark counties. The service members also provide 170 families who are disabled or without transportation with home deliveries as well as delivering food to the homeless community currently sheltered in local hotels. This support is crucial to supporting community members facing food insecurity during the pandemic.
“It’s a great opportunity to serve and be a part of an operation,” said Tech Sgt. Bryon Ingram, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Airmen assigned to the Second Harvest Food Bank. “This is why we joined the Guard, to serve the state and our local community.”
According to the Second Harvest Food Bank’s website, as of April 13, 2020, the Second Harvest Food Bank has served 23,000 individuals which is an increase of 57% in the number of individuals served before the pandemic began. Of these individuals, 52% of them had not received prior assistance from the food bank.
“It’s rewarding interacting with community members and hearing how grateful they are and hearing them thank you,” said Airman 1st Class Hallie Mills, an Airman assigned to the 178th Wing.
The food bank is expecting to serve 55,000 individuals by the end of the year; an increase of 17,801 people from the year prior. With the rise of need in the community, the National Guard has been critical in keeping up with the increased demand for food.
“When you can see the true need that the people you are serving have, that makes the experience even more special,” said Ingram.
This experience has allowed Airmen and Soldiers to make an impact on their community and make a difference in others lives.
“We have the opportunity to serve our community and help in a time of need,” said Staten. “For these people, this may be the only access they have to food so being able to be the person that helps them is pretty rewarding. It’s nice to know that you are helping these people out directly and making an impact on their lives.”
The opportunity has allowed the Airmen serving at the food bank to grow individually and use the skills they have learned through the Air Force to give back.
“Being the non commissioned officer in charge here for the Air Force members has been a great way for me to grow as a supervisor and exercise the skills I have learned through the Air Force,” said Ingram.
Being called to serve is not a new experience for many Airmen and Soldiers who have been deployed overseas to serve their country and fellow Americans. However, being able to help at the Second Harvest Food Bank brings a new meaning to service before self for the Airmen assigned to the mission.
“Its a completely different feeling to serve in the community than overseas in a deployed environment,” said Staff Sgt. Lucas Williams, a radar technician assigned to the 123rd Air Control Squadron. “Both experiences are equally rewarding. Serving in the community has been rewarding because you can see the impact we’re making on others lives firsthand.”
With the assistance of Ohio National Guard members, the Second Harvest Food Bank has been able to continue its mission of relieving hunger for those individuals and families in need across the communities it serves. The Airmen from the 178th Wing continue to work hard alongside the 237th Support Battalion and the food bank staff members to ensure local community members have access to food in this time of uncertainty.