Community counters hunger

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE,Mo. - Sandi Williams, 509th Force Support Squadron , community readiness consultant, Airman Family Readiness Center, marks the expiration date on a box in the food pantry at the AFRC, March 24, 2010. The food pantry is located within the AFRC , and is available to Airmen in need.(U.S. Air Force photo By Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE,Mo. - Sandi Williams, 509th Force Support Squadron , community readiness consultant, Airman Family Readiness Center, marks the expiration date on a box in the food pantry at the AFRC, March 24, 2010. The food pantry is located within the AFRC , and is available to Airmen in need.(U.S. Air Force photo By Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE,Mo. - Sandi Williams, 509th Force Support Squadron community readiness consultant at the Airman Family Readiness Center, stocks the shelves of the food pantry, March 24, 2010. The food pantry is located in the AFRC , and is available to Airmen in need.  (U.S. Air Force photo By Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE,Mo. - Sandi Williams, 509th Force Support Squadron community readiness consultant at the Airman Family Readiness Center, stocks the shelves of the food pantry, March 24, 2010. The food pantry is located in the AFRC , and is available to Airmen in need. (U.S. Air Force photo By Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo., -- Nationwide, the economic state for many families is far from well-off, many families have financial wounds within their homes, and the unemployment rate is at a rare high.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate throughout 2009 was 9.3 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2008 almost one of four children didn't have enough to eat.

In the summer of 2009, the 442nd Fighter Wing Human Resource Development Council joined forces with the 509th Bomb Wing first sergeants to assist the Whiteman Food Pantry, housed inside the Airmen Family Readiness Center, here.

The pantry assists Airmen in providing for their families. Donations consist of daily necessities, mainly groceries.

"The 442nd FW HRDC began to utilize the program simply to give back to the Whiteman community," said Master Sgt. Vickie Chambers, 442nd FW Family Readiness NCO here. "We rotate months with the 509th first sergeants in keeping the food pantry stocked and rotated so the expired food is discarded."

With the partnership, the food pantry is able to help more Whiteman team members and their families, to include guard and reservists serving here.

"Being a reservist, we have many members who have lost their civilian jobs, so the food pantry has been a tremendous help to them," she said. "It is hard for people to imagine the guard or reserves needing help, when in reality, many of our Airmen are feeling the repercussions of the economic condition."

Tech. Sgt. Thomas Dalsing, 442nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground power support equipment mechanic, is familiar with the hunger pains, and is committed to preventing others from feeling them.

"Both my wife and I come from poor families," said Sergeant Dalsing. "Our parents were raised through the depression era, so we have an understanding of family-financial struggle.

"Giving food is great, but hygienic products are a help also," he said. "Things like soap or toilet paper are often looked-over."

Sergeant Dalsing said he and his family try to donate as often as possible, "We have no idea who we're supporting, but if someone is in need, we don't want to see them go hungry or be helpless."

The most recent drives assisting the Whiteman Food Pantry were hosted in February and March. Throughout the two drives, the pantry collected four grocery carts filled with food and more than $600 in donations.

"Our current system is working well, but more help is always welcome and appreciated," said Sergeant Chambers. "We have the luxury of receiving much well placed help. We currently have four of our wing Airmen helping out with the pantry."

The next food drive will be hosted by the 442nd FW and 442nd HRDC at the Family Day Picnic in September.

Donations are accepted year-round. For any questions regarding the program, call the Airman Family Readiness Center, (660) 687-7132.