Hurlburt Field Mobile Food Pantry kicks off its first event

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alysa Knott
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

As a former U.S. Army soldier and now military spouse, Mauli Patel remembers a time where her family struggled to put food on the table.

“I faced food insecurity after l left the Army and was attending college,” said Patel. “I remember the alienation and shame I felt because I didn’t have enough money to go out with my friends or even buy food on a regular basis.”

Now, Patel is working to help those in similar situations at Hurlburt Field by organizing a monthly mobile food pantry.

Through partnerships with the local community, the Hurlburt Field Mobile Food Pantry offers groceries to service members and their families. The mobile food pantry, held at the Hurlburt Field Chapel is scheduled to take place on the fourth Friday of every month, unless it is a holiday, then it will be moved up a week.

All Airmen and their families, regardless of rank, are welcome to receive food from the event. To ensure the privacy of those participating, individuals will only be asked to provide information on the ages and number of members in their household.

The food pantry is mobile, which means participants can remain in their cars while the food items are brought to them.

“We'll put the food in their car, and they can go about their merry way,” explained Patel.

In 2020, 24% of active-duty service members were food insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Of those members, junior enlisted were among the highest risk of experiencing food insecurity.

The first mobile food pantry event took place last month. In partnership with Feeding the Gulf Coast the food pantry provided 5,000 pounds of food– enough to feed approximately 150 families for about a week.

“I don't know a word for the feeling I get when I see the relief in their eyes or excitement in the kids,” said Patel. “The best part is knowing that somebody's happy today for the little effort that we put out.”

Feeding the Gulf Coast is the area's local Feeding America-affiliated food bank. It serves 24 counties throughout southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle by providing emergency food assistance programs.

“Last year, the food bank distributed nearly 29 million meals to those in need along the central Gulf Coast through its network of more than 800 community partners,” said Rodney Wilson, Feeding the Gulf Coast Florida branch manager.

The mobile food pantry also partnered with organizations including Top-III, Hurlburt Field Chapel and Airmen volunteers to put on the event. The food pantry garnered approximately 50 volunteers, ranging from military dependents, children and retirees from ages three to 80 years old.

“We want to be that friend to the community and anyone who might be in a similar situation,” said Patel.

Additionally, those interested in volunteering for future food pantry events are asked to arrive at the chapel at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the event.

Those wishing to contribute to the success of the Mobile Food Pantry can contact the Hurlburt Field Chapel.

Read here for more information on Feeding the Gulf Coast and how to find other food pantries in the local area.