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Dragons feed Gulf Coast

Keesler personnel package food items into crates during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Keesler personnel package food items into crates during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Watts, 81st Training Wing command chief executive assistant, packages food items during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Watts, 81st Training Wing command chief executive assistant, packages food items during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Tech. Sgts. Raymond Santiago and Zane Williams, Mathies NCO Academy students, sign in to volunteer for a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Tech. Sgts. Raymond Santiago and Zane Williams, Mathies NCO Academy students, sign in to volunteer for a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Food items sit in boxes during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Food items sit in boxes during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Tech. Sgt. Brittany Tyo, Mathies NCO Academy student, packages food items during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Tech. Sgt. Brittany Tyo, Mathies NCO Academy student, packages food items during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Col. Danny Davis, 81st Mission Support Group commander, thanks Keesler personnel for volunteering during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Col. Danny Davis, 81st Mission Support Group commander, thanks Keesler personnel for volunteering during a food drive at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Jan. 16, 2018, Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 80 Airmen participated in the wing-level community sponsored volunteer event packaging over 21,000 pounds of food, equating to approximately 17,500 meals that will be provided to hunger relief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Eighty-nine Keesler Airmen volunteered to support the Feeding the Gulf Coast organization Jan. 16 in Biloxi, Mississippi, which provides hunger relief to 24 counties along the Gulf Coast.

“We rescued 14,405 pounds of produce, 5,110 pounds of dry goods and 1,481 pounds of bakery donations,” said Senior Master Sgt. Richard Crim, 81st Security Forces Squadron superintendent. “That’s a total of 20,996 pounds of food which equates to approximately 17,500 meals to those in need.”

This volunteer event was just the first in many more to come according to Capt. Carissa Hoosline, 81st Training Wing commander’s action group director. She explained the initiative was developed to focus on one of the new priorities for the 81st TRW, enriching community partnerships. Col. Debra Lovette, 81st TRW commander, has challenged the wing to complete four major events like this each year, with one group taking the lead each quarter.

The event was originally scheduled for more than three hours, but with such a large turnout and the Airmen working together to break down food displays and palletize all food products, it only took an hour, according to Crim.

Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Watts, 81st TRW command chief executive assistant, not only recognizes the importance of giving back to the community, but also believes the Feeding the Gulf Coast organization is an innovative concept.

“We get supported by the community and it’s only fair that we give back the same kind of support we are given as a base,” said Watts.

The concept of rescuing food involves local venders, restaurants and grocery stores donating expired food that is still edible to food banks. Food banks then use this food to fight hunger in their local communities.

“In America we generally waste a lot of food,” said Watts. “To see all of these vendors give away the food instead of just throwing away what they don’t sell, it could be going to somebody that’s in need of it.”

For Crim, his favorite part of volunteering is seeing Airmen from different units come together and work as a team.

“This event was sponsored by the 81st Mission Support Group on behalf of the wing,” said Crim. “Overall, Team Keesler is focused on community based programs and building stronger relationships with the public.”