• November 25, 2014

Pantry helps military families keep food on the table

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Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 4:30 am

KILLEEN — With their toddler and a 6-year-old, the Johnsons don’t want to take shortcuts when providing for their children.

“Food bills are outrageous,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Johnson, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. “We’ll spend $1,000 a month just on groceries.”

When he heard about Operation Once In a Lifetime’s food pantry on the second floor of the Sgt. Leevon Ritter Support Your Troops Resale Center in downtown Killeen, he decided to check out what they had to offer.

As the Johnsons get down to their last few pennies between pay periods, they said it was nice to receive essential foods like bread, milk and eggs without having to pay for them at the store.

The family received the food from Operation Once in a Lifetime, which passed inspection last week to receive items from the Capital Area Food Bank in Austin. The organization ordered 5,000 pounds of food for $250, which was delivered Thursday to the storefront that opened in December. By the end of the day, the shelves were sparse as hundreds of families filtered in and out.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class John Valentine, vice president of the nonprofit, said working with the food bank is a tremendous opportunity to help the community and help soldiers save money on groceries. He anticipates being able to feed more than 500 families within the next two weeks.

“Our goal is to be able to help more families make it from paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “Right now, we’re in between paydays in the military ... where (people are thinking) ‘How are we going to be able to make it to payday?’ This will save them $50, maybe $100 in food for their families.”

Ash Wells, marketing director for the nonprofit, said it provides services for all branches of the military and veterans and their families.

“Our only requirement is that you served honorably,” said Wells, whose job is a full-time volunteer position.

While she said some organizations have strict requirements for who they’ll serve, the nonprofit doesn’t.

“There’s always a lot of help for civilians, but a lot of food assistance (for soldiers) require you to be a certain rank or make a certain amount of money,” she said. “We know there’s even a lot of sergeant majors who just can’t afford things sometimes.”

The pantry gets new shipments of staple food items weekly and Johnson said it’s a great resource for soldiers of all ranks to use between pay periods when funds run low.

“It really helps out a lot,” he said. “It’s nice to have that help when you need it. You shouldn’t (come to the pantry) every week. You should use it when you need it because there are (other) people that really, really need the help.”

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