Coronavirus Crisis: National Guard steps in to help South Bay food bank due to volunteer shortage

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The novel coronavirus crisis has brought a new mission to the forefront for soldiers with the California Army National Guard, after they were activated last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

"We're here to help out, we're not here to scare anybody," said National Guard Sgt. Christopher Petrossian. "We live in Alameda County, we live in Santa Clara County, we live in San Mateo County, and we're civilians just like you are, but now we're here to keep the food moving throughout the state and getting people fed."

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Eighty members of the 115th Regional Support Group spent Tuesday working at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley in San Jose, one of the region's largest food banks, where they're helping with sorting fruits and vegetables for distribution to families in need.

"A lot of us in the National Guard joined in order to support our communities in this way specifically in situations like this," National Guard Sgt. Jordon Park.

The National Guard's activities had been the subject of speculation and debate on social media as the Bay Area began its second week sheltering-in-place, but the governor emphasized that soldiers would be working on humanitarian projects.

"We're all here to do the same task at hand," said National Guard Sgt. Josefina Flores. "We're all really focused together to try and get everything done the best way we can."

Second Harvest typically has 100 volunteers on a daily basis, but has seen its numbers cut in half over the past week. The assistance from the National Guard has been extremely helpful to the organization.

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"We feel like we're really at the front of this tsunami of need and that's why it's so important that we really ramp up our services as we know more and more people are going to be finding themselves in need of food assistance," said Leslie Bacho, Second Harvest's chief executive officer.

The National Guard will be supporting the food bank through the end of the week.

"Being called up and having the opportunity to help out in the community, you know, hands on, it's just something that I'm really proud to do, and I know a lot of other soldiers feel the same way," said National Guard Lt. Cameron Quach.

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