Hunger Hits Home

April 10, 2024

In March, the MFAN Advisory Board had the opportunity to travel to Fort Cavazos in Texas to learn more about our MFANetwork pilot program, the PCS Pantry Restock Box, and visit with our community partners to discuss how they can help to support military families by turning MFAN’s research into action. During that visit, our advisors had the opportunity to meet our partners at the Food Care Center and spend some time volunteering alongside the staff.

Advisory Board member Isa Marie McIntyre shares her thoughts on the experience. 


I know what it’s like to be hungry.


As I fill the brown paper bags with cans of fruit, vegetables, and meat at the Food Care Center in Killeen, Texas, I can’t help but think about the long line of people we witnessed outside the center when we arrived. I also can’t help but wonder if organizations like this existed 30 years ago when my own parents struggled to feed their three children.


My father joined the Army in the early 80’s and served several years before being discharged. He would often talk about his wild nights as an infantry soldier, but he ended his time in the Army before I was born so I did not get to experience life as a military child. I did however get to experience life as a family that struggled to put food on the table and I distinctly remember what it feels like to be hungry as a child. I also know what it’s like to have milk but no cereal, bread but no lunch meat, Kool-Aid but no sugar…the list goes on. Potatoes became a staple in our house because they were cheap and had a long shelf life. We would eat fried potato sandwiches or just eat the potato raw with a tad bit of salt. And we almost never had fresh fruit and vegetables, only the canned stuff. My aunt and uncle – both Marines – would come and get me and my two brothers for the weekend and it was the only time we knew we would have a meal.


Now 30 years later, most of the work I do around food insecurity is in the form of grant management at the Center for Land-Based Learning, a California-based nonprofit that is heavily involved in understanding and supporting our local food system. With funding from the USDA, we are able to use our Mobile Farmers Market Truck to bring fresh, locally grown produce into underserved communities. While doing research for a grant proposal that addressed food insecurity in the San Diego military community, I came across MFAN’s 2019 survey results which highlighted that 15% of military families had experienced challenges with providing food for themselves or their families. I was saddened to read this statistic, but not at all surprised by it.


Back at the Food Care Center in Killeen, families are given grocery carts and directed to several food areas to select their items, including fresh fruits and vegetables. As I continue to fill paper bags with canned pears, beans, soup, and rice, the line of families seeking support from the center never seems to end.


While the MFAN Advisory Board did the heavy lifting this weekend filling bags with shelf sustainable food, it is organizations like the Food Care Center that do the heavy lifting for families experiencing food insecurity every day in their local community. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play a small role providing that support.


Isa Marie stocking one of MFAN’s PCS Pantry Restock Boxes


Food Care Center has been “standing in the gap created by hunger” in the community for over 36 years. Families can visit during business hours and receive (at no charge) a variety of grocery items, including canned and packaged goods, bakery items, meats, dairy, and fresh produce. In the first half of the 2024 fiscal year, Food Care Center has already distributed 1.5 million pounds of groceries to over 77,000 individuals in their community, many of whom are military-affiliated. In addition to being a partner in MFAN’s efforts to address military family food insecurity through the 1 Million Meals Challenge in 2021 and Combat Military Hunger initiative  in 2022, Food Care Center also serves as a key distribution partner and provides warehouse space in support of the MFANetwork pilot in Fort Cavazos.


If you have moved to Fort Cavazos, Texas in the past 90 days, pick up your PCS Pantry Restock Box today by visiting the Food Care Center or another pick up location near you. Learn more here.

About the Author

Isa Marie McIntyre

Isa Marie McIntyre is an Army veteran and Army retiree spouse currently residing in California. Her areas of passion are:
  • Incr…
Read More