In the Imperial Valley, home to NAF El Centro, unemployment rates average nearly 30 percent, 28 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 48 percent of the children are food insecure according to the Imperial Valley Food Bank. These statistics are staggering.
To compound the issue, the IV Food Bank experienced a 500,000 pound shortage in donations from the local food growers this year. Summer is especially cruel to these families as children are out of school and no longer have access to free school breakfasts and lunches. Demand on the food bank increases, resources are scarce, and the outlook may seem bleak for many.
But there is hope.
The Feds Feed Families Food Drive Campaign is that hope for the Imperial Valley and for food banks across the nation.
NAF El Centro issued a challenge to the local federal agencies, asking them to join in the fight against the local hunger problem.
The El Centro Sector Border Patrol and its 1200 agents enthusiastically answered that call initiating the inaugural valley wide food gathering challenge. To sweeten the pot, “Team Green” as they were known put up their highly coveted Ultimate Food Gathering Belt as the grand prize in the competition.
Spearheading the event for NAFEC was the facility’s Chaplain, LT Jared Smith. Partnering with the station’s public affairs department, Smith set lofty but achievable goals for the men and women at the Pearl of the Desert. The goal was for the two contestants to raise 50,000 pounds of food and thus offset the food bank’s deficit by ten percent.
As the “Global Force for Good” came out of their corner, they hit Border Patrol with a 20,000 pound donation. But our federal friends did not go down. During the five weeks of competition they fought back, raising 29,335 pounds in total. However, the 700 men and women of the Pearl of the Desert were unstoppable. They continued to pummel the “Green Machine” with their tenacity and knocking out the opponent with a grand total of 53,503 pounds of food.
Per capita, NAF El Centro raised 76.43 pounds of food per person with Border Patrol raising 24.46 pounds per person. Collectively the combined weight of both, 82,838 pounds, exceeded the goal of replacing ten percent of the food bank’s deficit.
Plans are already in the works for a rematch next year. Border Patrol and NAFEC are working to have more agencies join in the contest of compassion.