Congressman Panetta Urges Governor Newsom to Activate California National Guard to Help Respond to COVID-19 and Ensure Continuity of Food Assistance

March 17, 2020
Press Release

SALINAS, CA – Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) called on California’s Governor Gavin Newsom to activate National Guard members to help respond to and alleviate food insecurity across the state as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues.

Congressman Panetta is urging the state of California to utilize the National Guard and any other entities that could help provide food and nutrition assistance to vulnerable populations across the state as local and federal governments work together to mitigate the impact of this public health crisis.

"The National Guard can provide necessary relief to address both food packing and food distribution needs in the coming days and weeks. The governors of Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington have all activated components of their Army and Air National Guard.  In this time of emergency, the National Guard Bureau could serve as a critical tool to help mitigate the public health emergency in California as well," wrote Congressman Panetta.

"Food banks are on the frontlines, ensuring every person in our community has the ability to fill their pantry and stay nourished during this pandemic," said Andrew Cheyne, director of government affair for the California Association of Food Banks. "Our 41 food banks are well positioned to meet our communities' need for food, but we can’t do it alone. We need the support of the National Guard and we need it now to ensure we get ahead of the newfound challenges presented by COVID-19 and keep our community-members nourished and strong. We are grateful for Representative Panetta’s leadership and stalwart support for our food banks and for our hungry community members."

"Second Harvest takes our role as a community first responder in the event of a crisis or disaster very seriously," said Second Harvest Santa Cruz County CEO Willy Elliott-McCrea.  "The community’s need is critical right now, and our staff and volunteer labor are all being impacted by the spread and threat of COVID-19.  We have been unable to hire additional workers, and simply do not have the resources to effectively and safely distribute food to the most vulnerable population in our community.  Immediately after the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989, we partnered with the National Guard to be better able to meet the county’s food needs, and we desperately need that assistance once again.  National Guard response will help us support our county, and all food banks across the state to ensure Californians have access to the nutrition that they need to thrive."

The letter can be found here and below

 

Dear Governor Newsom,

I commend the diligence of your Administration in working to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. As you continue your efforts to mitigate the adverse impacts of this public health emergency, I urge you to activate National Guard personnel to help respond to and alleviate food insecurity across the state.

I am deeply concerned that, as a result of necessary statewide social distancing policies, the incidence of hunger will increase, particularly in low-income and minority communities. Under normal circumstances, local food banks are able to organize volunteers to provide critical food packaging and delivery services. Unfortunately, while food banks are taking every measure possible to provide consistent services through the duration of this emergency, they simply do not have enough volunteers to serve the population at need. Many regular food bank volunteers are older than 65 years and therefore unable to provide services as they stay safe in their homes. At the same time, the need for food assistance is rising each day.

The National Guard can provide necessary relief to address both food packing and food distribution needs in the coming days and weeks. The governors of Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington have all activated components of their Army and Air National Guard. In this time of emergency, the National Guard Bureau could serve as a critical tool to help mitigate the public health emergency in California as well.

In my district on central coast of California, the Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County successfully partnered with the National Guard following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. While the novel coronavirus emergency presents different challenges compared to an earthquake or other natural disaster, it nevertheless requires the immediate activation of local, state, and federal resources to serve the most vulnerable populations.

As you work to dedicate resources to address the novel coronavirus emergency, I request that you immediately utilize the National Guard and any other entities that could help provide food and nutrition to vulnerable populations across the state. I look forward to working together to mitigate the impacts of this public health crisis.

Sincerely,

Jimmy Panetta

Member of Congress