Delaware National Guard races to collect food in fight against hunger

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Maj. Gen. Francis Vavala donates food as part of the Delaware National Guard’s war on hunger. (Submitted photos)

DOVER — For more than half a decade, the Delaware National Guard has been waging a lesser-known fight: on hunger.

This year it’s been amped up as members of the Delaware Army National Guard and the Navy Reserve compete to raise the most food for needy Delawareans.

While members work to collect food year-round, the initiative takes greater emphasis around Thanksgiving.

Those in the reserve and the guard are asked to drop off food items at one of the facilities throughout the state and promote their efforts to the community.

“It’s our goal to eradicate hunger here in the First State and take care of those in need in our community,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Vavala, head of the state’s National Guard.

So far, the units are exceeding expectations. After collecting about 10,000 pounds in 2013, they brought in 15,000 pounds last year. More than 20,000 pounds has been received this year, much to the delight of Maj. Gen. Vavala.

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Several barrels overflowing with donations of food for needy Delawareans sit along the wall as part of Delaware National Guard’s efforts to end hunger.

He proudly touts the National Guard’s efforts in fighting a “war on hunger.”

“This is a great competition because the beneficiaries are those in need in our community,” he said. “There’s no loser in this thing.”

In total, 150,000 pounds has been donated over the past seven years.

This year, members are keeping track of Army and Navy donations at the Joint Armed Forces Reserve Center in New Castle, where different units share space. The contest between the two sides ends Dec. 20. Currently, the Navy has the lead, having collected 505 pounds to the Army’s 398 pounds.

While the competition may have begun this year, the rivalry between the two oldest branches of the U.S. military goes back much farther.

The Naval and Military academies square off every year on the gridiron in one of college football’s oldest rivalries, something noted by Maj. Gen. Vavala as he explained the origins of the new competition.

But although members of the Army National Guard and Navy Reserve do intend for their side to bring in the most food, the main focus is on the charitable efforts, not the competition.

The war on hunger program is run with the help of the Food Bank of Delaware, which collects the food and distributes it to those in need.

The National Guard does outreach for its initiative, trying to get civilians involved in simply donating some necessary staples for hungry Delawareans.

“We have a stake in Delaware,” Maj. Gen. Vavala said. “We really have a stake in our communities. We really need to do something positive to influence our communities.”

People interested in donating can visit one of the National Guard’s facilities in the state. Current locations include the 193rd Regiment Regional Training Institute, in Bethany Beach; the Readiness Center, in Dagsboro; the Readiness Center, in Smyrna; and the Armed Forces Reserve Center, in New Castle.

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