Strength through generosity – serving the hungry in our community

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Tinashe Machona
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Supporting the underprivileged by feeding the homeless is a task not taken lightly by members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing food services team. Dedication to duty inspires them to give back to the community by participating in Waste NOT – a perishable food rescue program that feeds millions of people in Phoenix; an effort to ensure that no one sleeps on an empty stomach.

For more than 12 years, Waste NOT has provided food for special events, as well as reserved some to send home with families. That includes serving hungry men, women and children in the valley.

“Waste NOT is a great program that allows us to give left-over, reusable food to a variety of charities in the valley,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kindra Sweet, services sustainment superintendent. She added that the services team, which is the military career field that oversees food service for the installation, diligently preserves the left-overs that would otherwise be thrown away.

Sergeant Sweet’s team saves left-over food after serving the base, which is subsequently packed away to be picked up by Waste NOT trucks. Food is typically picked up the week after the wing’s Unit Training Assemblies, which are the monthly training sessions for the Arizona National Guard.

“We do our best to progressively cook, so that we do not have any excess food. However, when good food is in excess, we give to Waste NOT so that it can benefit others. Inevitably, the food goes to soup kitchens that help feed the homeless, which is a great source of pride for services,” said Sweet.

The wing’s dining facility has been participating in the Waste NOT program for more than 10 years.

Waste NOT truck drivers are on the road six days per week, beginning at 6:30 a.m., collecting an average of 8-10,000 pounds of excess perishable food daily from restaurants, resorts, caterers, grocers and a variety of purveyors.

Services’ participation in the program is not done for, nor does it receive, any financial gain. It is strictly done for the purposes of extending generosity to the most vulnerable members of our community – hungry individuals. “Why throw the food away when we can give it to someone else,” Sweet said.

Sweet, a 28-year veteran, said she aspires to procure a truck that will collect left-over food, when she retires from the military. “I have a passion to help others alleviate hunger so that they can sleep well on a full stomach,” she added.

“I think Waste NOT is an extraordinary program that is beneficial for the Phoenix area,” said Tech. Sgt. Terell Ballard, the wing’s dining facility manager. Ballard added that Waste NOT will pick up about 50 pounds of food from the wing’s kitchen each month.

“We work as a team when we pack the food for Waste NOT and I observe the generosity our Airmen when they engage in this important endeavor for our community,” said Ballard.

More information on how to participate in Waste NOT can be found at