Episode Show Notes:
Welcome to the "Militarily Speaking" podcast with Tom McLean and Jodi Vickery.
In this episode of “Militarily Speaking,” Tom, Jodi, and guest Monica Bassett, Founder and CEO of Stronghold Community Food Pantry, shares how she turned a personal quest to feed needy military families from her garage into a nationally recognized food pantry, shedding light on the unseen challenges faced by military families.
“Militarily Speaking” is a podcast produced by Armed Forces Bank that is dedicated to the military lifestyle and all the things that makes military community who they are.
Ep. 35 – Stronghold Community Food Pantry’s Fight Against Food Insecurity Among Military Families with Monica Bassett
Combating Food Insecurity in the Military
Monica Bassett, Founder and CEO of Stronghold Community Food Pantry, gives a heartening and insightful talk on combating food insecurity among military families. She shares her personal journey of becoming a late-career military spouse and how it deeply influenced her life. The transition was challenging but also transformative, as it inspired her to create Stronghold Community Food Pantry to help combat food insecurity among military families.
Monica tells the story of how she started feeding military families from her garage, a personal initiative that eventually transformed into a nationally recognized food pantry. She continues by discussing the troubling statistic revealed by the Secretary of Defense that 24% of military families across all service branches are grappling with food insecurity. This revelation drove her to increase her efforts, combined with other factors that led to establishing a new branch of Stronghold at Fort Leavenworth.
In 2022, Monica was named the Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year, which serves as a testament to her tireless work in addressing food insecurity and providing essential resources to military families. Tom and Jodi underscores Monica's unique approach in addressing food insecurity by ensuring that her services are delivered with care and dignity, always protecting the anonymity of the families involved.
Military Spouse and Community Advocate Journey
Monica explains that being a military spouse is not just about supporting a partner in service, but also being part of a larger community. It's a unique role that requires adaptability, resilience, and a deep sense of service. Monica admits that it was her experiences and interactions with other military families that opened her eyes to the pervasive issue of food insecurity in this community.
Stronghold Community Food Pantry became her mission, her way of giving back to a community that she was a part of. She shares how the pantry doesn't just provide food to those in need but also works to empower the younger generation. They strive to instill a sense of community service and the importance of giving back to those less fortunate.
Throughout her journey, Monica has been supported by organizations like Armed Forces Bank. They have been with her from the start, providing crucial support as she moved from one military base to another - from JBLM to Carson, to Riley, and now to Leavenworth.
Monica's recognition as the Army Spouse of the Year has been a significant boost for her mission. It not only validated her efforts but also amplified the conversation about food insecurity among military families. Monica shares that this award has allowed her to reach more families in need and attract more support for her cause.
Monica elaborates on her mission to end food insecurity among military families on a national level. She introduces the Ambassador Program, an innovative initiative designed to spread the reach of Stronghold Community Food Pantry beyond the local area. This program involves vetting installations and ambassadors who will represent Stronghold, feeding military families across the nation.
The Ambassador Program has been made possible due to funding provided by the Uncommon Grit Foundation. Monica also speaks about a recent achievement – winning the top prize at the Second Service Foundation Military Entrepreneurial Pitch competition. This victory helped Stronghold gain further recognition and support that is aiding their expansion efforts.
Monica also discusses how the Ambassador Program facilitates the growth of Stronghold at a sustainable pace. This program allows for gradual expansion while ensuring that the organization's core mission remains the same – to serve military families facing food insecurity with care and dignity.
Challenges and Support for Military Families
Monica candidly shares her personal experiences with the unseen difficulties faced by military families. She discusses how military families are often trapped in a cycle of hardship due to factors like moving expenses, delays in reimbursement, and unexpected occurrences such as her own experience of having to rent a hotel room for seven weeks due to a flooded house.
She goes on to reveal how the military culture of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" exacerbates these problems, explaining how military families are often discouraged from discussing their struggles, leading to an increased sense of isolation and despair. This culture of silence, she argues, makes it even more critical to provide support and resources for these families in need.
Monica talks about their drive-through event that happened on Father's Day and their mobile delivery services. These initiatives aim to provide accessible, convenient solutions to food insecurity, and to send a message to military families that they are not alone and that help is available.
Moreover, she mentions the importance of data in shedding light on the reality of food insecurity among military families. She shares how data collected by organizations such as Blue Star Families and MFAN has been instrumental in driving change. Monica notes how she sees Stronghold not just as a food pantry, but as a vehicle for raising awareness and sparking systemic change in the way society supports military families.
Finally, Monica emphasizes the importance of building community and establishing trust with the families she serves. This, she says, is the key to breaking down barriers and creating an environment where families feel safe and supported. In doing so, she aims to change the narrative for military families, from one of struggle and silence to one of strength and community support.
Jodi introduces the Military Minute segment of the show, beginning by closing out last episode’s Military Minute.
- Last episode’s Military Minute: The marathon course of the 1972 Munich Olympics was shaped like the mascot Waldi, which is what type of dog?
- Answer: A Dachshund
- This week’s Military Minute question: Which actor was offered the role of Jack Dawson in Titanic, but turned it down?
- Watch for Facebook and Instagram posts about this episode.
- Answer with the correct answer and you plus a charity of your choice can each win $50.
Tom closes the episode by asking listeners to go to www.afbank.com and subscribe to the show, as well as leave a rating and comment on your favorite podcast platform such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Join us to hear how to better navigate your finances, military life, and the crossroads of the two.