Originally published at rtx.com. Raytheon Technologies ranked No. 41 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.
Yvonne Coombes knows how hard it can be for military families to put food on the table.
As a regular volunteer at the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and an Army spouse of more than 20 years, she’s familiar with the problem, why it happens, and the cost associated with it.
“Military families face different challenges when it comes to food insecurity,” Coombes said during a drive-through food distribution event at the center that was hosted by Raytheon Technologies, Feeding America and the local Care and Share Food Bank.
“The resources are there, but sometimes the military service member is afraid to ask for the help,” she continued. “And so they try to take care of the problem themselves, and they try to get a payday loan or reach out in other ways, instead of going through their chain of command. And when they’re doing those things, they’re unable to focus on the mission at hand.”
To help military families and veterans find relief from food insecurity, Raytheon Technologies has made a three-year, $3 million investment with Feeding America’s Equitable Food Access and Military Hunger Advocacy initiatives.
This investment, an expansion of Raytheon Technologies’ long-term partnership with Feeding America, will provide grants to:
- Help food banks across the U.S. distribute nutritious food to communities most in need, including military communities.
- Enable these food banks to start or expand local programs to act on racial and geographical barriers to food access.
- Help food banks identify legislative solutions and work with lawmakers to address hunger among military families.
Feeding America is a strategic impact partner in Raytheon Technologies’ Connect Up initiative, which seeks to lift up underserved communities through lifelong educational opportunities, support of military veterans and families, and programs that help communities meet their basic needs.
In addition to the $3 million investment, the company has supported Feeding America since 2020 by:
- Donating $5 million to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund – supporting 17 food banks across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
- Launching a volunteer campaign in nine states where employees have supported the delivery of more than 1.5 million meals through donations and on-site volunteer activity such as packing and distributing food.
Understanding the challenges
At Mt. Carmel, Coombes joined local Raytheon Technologies employees, volunteers and military leaders to discuss the challenges of food insecurity in military families.
Among the contributing factors: low base pay for junior enlisted personnel, increased rates of unemployment and underemployment for military spouses and other family members, the high cost of living near many military installations across the country, and other costly financial commitments such as student loans and child care.
“We have a lot more young soldiers that come in that are married with families than we did 25 or 30 years ago,” said U.S. Army Col. Nate Springer, the garrison commander at nearby Ft. Carson. “Now, the military has done really well to counter that with food security programs. But you know that soldiers and their families move every two or three years. So there (are) a lot of costs. I think that’s one of the big contributing factors.”
The U.S military “has to operate in some of the most expensive communities in the United States,” said Vince Hall, Chief Government Relations Officer at Feeding America. “And the families that are stationed in those communities sometimes don’t have enough money to afford all of the expensive things that those communities present to them, whether it’s groceries, or fuel, or rent or other monthly expenses.”
“In partnership with Feeding America, Raytheon Technologies is directly providing help and assistance to families who (have) family members serving overseas,” Hall continued. “Thanks to the investment of Raytheon Technologies, and to the energy of its employees in support of this mission, we’re going to get this job done.”
Making an impact
Sandy Brown, an Army spouse and Vice President at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, volunteered at the Mt. Carmel food distribution event in Colorado Springs. For her, giving back to those who protect the United States is personal.
“I have seen firsthand the positive impacts of initiatives such as this,” said Brown. “I am overwhelmed with the amount of employee engagement. It truly shows and demonstrates our core values at Raytheon Technologies around serving underrepresented communities, especially those in our military.”
For Coombes, the direct support she lends as a volunteer — such as simply handing a carton of eggs to a family in need — is more than just providing a meal.
“When we are able to find these military families that are having food insecurity issues and we can help them, ultimately we’re helping the military as a whole,” she said. “It’s great to be able to just connect to people and say, ‘We’re here to support you.’”