OMAHA, Neb. – Governor Pete Ricketts has authorized the Nebraska National Guard to deploy soldiers to Food Bank for the Heartland to help pack critical meals for Nebraska’s rapidly growing number of food-insecure children, families and seniors.
“I commend Governor Pete Ricketts for his decision, and we welcome these National Guard members and thank them for their dedication and support,” said Brian Barks, President and CEO, of Food Bank for the Heartland. “Our Guard members are coming from counties across the state to serve their own communities, ensuring their neighbors continue to receive food.”
Beginning Tuesday, 15 airmen from the Nebraska National Guard are reporting to Food Bank for the Heartland’s volunteer center Monday through Friday to augment volunteer operations.
Volunteers and soldiers are working together to pack thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and assemble community packs to be distributed to individuals and families in need through the Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry program, which is operating using a drive-up model during the pandemic, and through a network of pantry partners across 77 counties in the state.
Community packs are 28-pound boxes filled with 15 nonperishable staple items. Currently, volunteers at Food Bank for the Heartland are assembling approximately 2,500 community packs each week.
Social distancing is being practiced in the volunteer center, and, as always, hand washing and adherence to food safety guidelines are paramount.
“We are proud to assist our neighbors in need,” said Nebraska National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac. “In many different ways, COVID-19 has impacted every community across our state.”
Nebraska National Guard soldiers have also been deployed to Food Bank of Lincoln to assist with operations. Food Bank for the Heartland and Food Bank of Lincoln worked together to make a request for National Guard support in this unprecedented time. The total National Guard deployment for Nebraska food banks is 69 personnel for a 31-day deployment beginning April 20, 2020, with the possibility of an extension.
“As Nebraskans across the state continue to struggle with the community and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many find themselves in the unfamiliar position of seeking emergency food assistance,” said Barks. “The need for supplemental food has increased significantly in recent weeks. We anticipate it will remain high, but Food Bank for the Heartland is committed to helping our neighbors who are struggling.”
Typically, more than 223,000 Nebraskans are food insecure and may not have regular access to the meals needed for a healthy lifestyle. Food Bank for the Heartland has estimated the number of clients being served has grown 38 percent compared to a year ago as this public health crisis impacts household budgets.