Guardsmen help deliver locally-sourced food

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tamara R. Dabney
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

Members of the Connecticut National Guard partnered with the American Red Cross and the Department of Emergency Management to deliver boxes of food to families in Connecticut as part of the Farmers to Families Food Box program.

Through the program, food that was previously destined for restaurants and bulk purchasers is rerouted to food insecure households.

The U.S. federal government implemented Farmers to Families in April 2020 under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The law authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase up to $4 billion worth of food from American producers. The boxes are then distributed to local schools, food banks, faith-based organizations and other non-profit organizations where families can obtain them.

Air Force Master Sgt. Sarah Lateano, who has served with the 103rd Airlift Wing for 15 years, has been mobilized for multiple relief missions over the course of her career. She said the Guard’s ability to rapidly mobilize troops and operate in a joint environment contributes to the overall efficiency of the Farmers to Families mission in Connecticut.

“We have been working with different state and military agencies to get personnel and assets here within 24 hours to make sure that we can fulfill this mission,” said Lateano. “We come in and get the food to where it needs to go.”

The Guard provided the manpower and heavy equipment that was used to transport approximately 480 food boxes. Each box contained fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products or meat, or a combination of the three.

The mission was a new experience for Airman Zachary Martineau, who joined the Guard less than two years ago. He recalled seeing Guardsmen activated for relief missions in previous years and relished the opportunity to be part of the Farmers to Families mission.

“During hurricanes they activate the National Guard, during riots they activate the National Guard, they also activate us for stuff like this,” said Martineau, a transportation specialist assigned to the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron. “It feels good being on the front lines to help families that are in need. I feel like we’re actually making a difference.

The USDA announced in September that the federal government would extend the Farmers to Families Food Box program through the end of October 2020.