Meal donations ease holiday burden for military families

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A national organization and grocery store have teamed up to give away meals and cleaning supplies to military families for Thanksgiving.

Operation Homefront held their “Holiday Meals for Military” program Thursday at the American Legion in Newport News.

Volunteers passed out groceries like fresh produce, bags of traditional Thanksgiving fixings and cleaning products.

Vivian Dietrich, who is the senior regional director for Operation Homefront, said 100 pre-registered families attended Thursday’s event that left many of them cheerful for the holidays.

“I think you can just see from the expression on the volunteers and the sponsors in the room. You can see it on their face. It makes you feel good that every service member who comes in here will be able to feed a holiday meal to a family of eight or more,” she said.

Dietrich said the program has been around since 2010 and has provided more than 100,000 meal donations, which have fed more than 430,000 service family members.

Events like this shows volunteers’ dedication to fulfilling their organization’s mission.

“Operation Homefront’s mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so they thrive in the communities they work so hard to protect, not just get by. And to do that, we want to make sure they know the community cares. And I think this event today does show them the community does care,” Dietrich said.

Food Lion sponsored and donated groceries for the meals through their “Food Lion Feeds” charitable foundation. About 20 associates with the company helped volunteer.

Wanda Washburn, the director of operations for Food Lion in Newport News and Hampton, said their goal is to serve one billion meals to those who are hungry by 2025.

“Hunger is a problem in our communities. We know every race, every background, people are dealing with hunger everyday. Any of us could be in that situation,” Washburn said. “Unfortunately, many of our service members and their families are in that situation. So, today we’re hoping to help alleviate some of the stress of the holidays so they don’t have to chose between dinner and rent or gas and groceries, and they can have these great holidays meals for their families.”

Helping military families also hits close to home for her. Washburn’s father was in the U.S. Army.

She said many who volunteered thanked military members for their service while they got their meals.

“I appreciate the people that give their time to serve our country. It’s not just the service men and women that serve. It’s the families. So often do we forget that. It’s not just that member. It’s their families and children and many of the people that have come through today, their spouses are deployed. They’ll be spending the holidays alone, and it just makes us feel good to put a meal on the table for our families,” she said.

There will be another “Holiday Meals for the Military” event in Norfolk Dec. 7.

To learn more, volunteer, or donate, visit

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