A dozen people from the 340th Flying Training Group headquarters (including two members’ spouses) joined forces with city-wide volunteers Feb. 22 to help fight hunger in southwest Texas.
During the San Antonio Foodbank volunteer event, organized by Master Sgt. Angelina Manby, group occupational safety manager, and Tech. Sgt. Kassandra Farani, assistant NCO in charge of force management, volunteers worked to sort and organize items donated to the foodbank.
By the end of the afternoon, the team helped sort and stack more than 10,000 pounds of food and non-food donations. The food donations alone were the equivalent of more than 8,300 individual meals.
Food insecurity is a growing concern across the country, according to foodbank representatives. Today 19 percent of all kids nationwide live in a food insecure household (which means that their families lack the necessary resources to buy food for everyone in their home).
It’s an issue that goes straight to the 340th commander’s heart.
“Nothing is more heartbreaking than knowing children are in need,” said Col. Allen Duckworth. Children should never go hungry, and thanks to this kind of opportunity, we can all do something to help a lot of families in need.”
The SA Foodbank, the first of its kind in Texas, feeds 58,000 people in 16 Southwest Texas counties every week. The amount of food necessary to meet that need is staggering. More than 45,000 pounds of food must be donated/collected, sorted, inspected, and distributed. And that takes a lot of volunteers.
Putting together a volunteer group may take time and coordination, but it’s worth the effort, according to Manby.
“It was great to see 340th FTG members working together - not only ourselves but with other volunteers from the community - to work sorting out all the food for the bank,” she said. “I think everyone enjoyed being there and being able to help out the community. I’m glad to be able to put this event together with Sergeant Farani.”
For people who are unable to make time to volunteer, there are other ways to support the foodbank - people can donate money, food or both. In addition, food banks nationwide seek advocates - people who can help them spread the word about the need.
Foodbank employees and volunteers focus first on meeting immediate hunger needs, but SA Foodbank programs are also intended to help educate, inform and prepare families for a future.
The culinary program, Texas Second Chance and job assistance programs teach participants viable skills that they can use to earn a living. Benefits assistance ensures people understand what kind of help is available, and counselors help people complete paperwork required to get that assistance, as well. Specific programs exist to help children and senior citizens, and they can even help low income families with some pet needs.
Whether donating money or time, supporters benefit in many ways.
“I felt like it was very rewarding,” said Farani. “And it went by so fast. It was an amazing feeling knowing that by giving a few hours of our time we were able to produce 8,000 meals for families in need.”
The work was definitely challenging, physically, but Farani said part of the reason time flew by was the foodbank staff.
“They were extremely pleasant and played great music while we worked,” she explained, noting that it didn’t really feel like work.
Farani, Manby and the 340th team will be back for another opportunity to help eliminate hunger in the southwest Texas region.
“Volunteering once or twice will help, but it won’t eliminate hunger, and there are so many kids out there who need our help. We’ll definitely be back,” Duckworth said.