By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
BOISE, Idaho – More than 40 Idaho National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are helping food bank workers keep up with increased demand as Idahoans start to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are so delighted to have this support from the Idaho National Guard,” said Karen Vauk, the Idaho Foodbank’s CEO and president. “We have to get more food in and more food out to support our communities across the state. We needed more manpower, so we called upon the National Guard.”
Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen were placed on state active duty orders in late March and assigned to work at the Idaho Foodbank’s Boise, Lewiston and Pocatello locations.
“We have more than 4,000 members in the Idaho National Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, commander, Idaho National Guard. “We respond when the state, county or city organizations’ capacities are overwhelmed or stretched to the limit and they ask us to come in and help.”
Vauk requested additional assistance through the Idaho Office of Emergency Management after she noticed a significant increase of need in the food supply throughout Idaho, which was causing her operations to be spread thin.
Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are also assisting at Boise’s St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry by handing out donated groceries to those in need. The Idaho Foodbank donates food to pantries like St. Vincent de Paul as part of the Feeding America program.
“Before COVID-19, what we would see here at the pantry would be an average of maybe 1,100 families per month,” said Ralph May, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul. “During this crisis, we are seeing close to 2,300 families per month for now. We are seeing a little more than double and some days we are seeing three times the amount of families we would normally see in a day.”
Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are assisting employees and volunteers with loading and unloading trucks, boxing and sorting donated food, helping load food into people’s cars and making deliveries to several of its 400 community-based partners throughout the state.
“Missions like this give people another reason to want to join the National Guard,” said Garshak. “Not only are they trained and prepared to serve our nation at times of war, but they are also ready and available to come to the aid of local communities and citizens in times of need.”