Volunteers serve those who served

Raytheon Technologies and its employees bolster efforts to ease food insecurity among veterans

Supporting those who protect us: That’s what motivates people who pitch in at The Greater Boston Food Bank Veterans Market in Newton, Massachusetts, on the third Friday of every month.

Things are tough right now. A fifth of American households going hungry includes someone who has served or is currently serving in the U.S. military. That’s why Ahyoung Choe and her fellow Raytheon Technologies employees help provide much-needed food.

“My dad is a U.S. Navy veteran, so I’m keeping the pride in my family strong in our support for all veterans and military families,” said Ahyoung Choe. She’s a senior mechanical engineer at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business of Raytheon Technologies.

Choe spent much of childhood living on the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan. “So, my experiences there also spark my passion for helping veterans, both through volunteering and in doing my part to deliver quality products to the military.”

Two volunteers hug at an event for The Greater Boston Food Bank Veterans Market

(from left) Sam Sullivan and Ahyoung Choe, of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, team up at The Greater Boston Food Bank Veterans Market where company volunteers organize, pack and distribute healthy food. (Photo: Courtney Ryan)

The Greater Boston Food Bank, or GBFB, Veterans Market has been held at the American Legion Nonantum Post 440 in Newton since 2016, mainly providing for veterans but also for others who have no military connection.

Raytheon Technologies “has been with us from the beginning,” said Christina Peretti, assistant director of community investment for GBFB, the largest hunger-relief organization in New England. “That commitment is incredible. I know the company does such important work, and to place such importance on employees volunteering really says a lot about its people and its values.”

Carol Pingree, whose family includes veterans, agrees. As assistant manager of American Legion Post 440 in Newton, she coordinates the Veterans Market there in partnership with GBFB, which delivers the food for distribution each month. “It’s a tremendous boost to have Raytheon Technologies folks volunteer with us – shows a true commitment to our veterans.”

A group photo of volunteers at The Greater Boston Food Bank Veterans Market

Raytheon Technologies volunteers regularly help out at The Greater Boston Food Bank Veterans Market at the American Legion Nonantum Post 440 in Newton every month. (Photo: Courtney Ryan) 

Rich Peyton, a senior systems engineer at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, volunteers at The GBFB Veterans Market in Newton every month.

“It’s a great bunch of people here. I like volunteering, actually seeing the folks you're helping out,” he said. “Before the Veterans Market even opens, there’s usually a long line of people waiting to pick up the food,” added Peyton, whose father, brother and sister all served in the military.

Volunteers place a food package in the back of a car during a mobile market event.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people coming to veterans markets, such as this one in Newton, Massachusetts, and other mobile markets, have been receiving their food packages outside. Previously, they selected their items inside the various pickup locations.  (Photo: Courtney Ryan) 

Putting food on the table has long been a challenge for many families across the United States. According to the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity, Feeding America, 12 million children were among more than 37 million without enough food before COVID-19.

Since the pandemic started in 2020, that total number, which includes active and retired military members, has risen by 17.1 million and Feeding America stepped up its investment in nationwide programs to alleviate food insecurity. The same year, Raytheon Technologies contributed to that funding increase – with a $5 million donation -- while also continuing to encourage its employees to help out at other initiatives across the United States to ease the burden.

In May 2022, Raytheon Technologies expanded its commitment to Feeding America's Equitable Food Access and Military Hunger Advocacy initiatives. These programs will increase access to nutritious food among communities most in need, including military families. The company’s ongoing support will enable Feeding America to start or expand local programs across the U.S. to identify and tackle racial and geographical barriers to food security, and to build relationships with congressional offices to champion causes that benefit service members. 

Three photos of volunteers at Feedings America in Tucson, Arizona.

In Arizona, Raytheon Missiles & Defense volunteers helped out at the St Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix and at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona in Tucson in 2020 and 2021. (Photos: Justin Haugen)

Three photos of Volunteers at Feeding America in Huntsville, Alabama.

Raytheon Missiles & Defense employees and their families volunteered at the Huntsville, Alabama, Downtown Rescue Mission in Huntsville, including the Thanksgiving Turkey Box drives in 2020 and 2021. The company also contributed materials and volunteers to help the Mission start a vegetable garden. (Photos: Natalie Lapacek-Trout and Dennis Keim)

Military veterans frequently turn out to assist at food banks. At the American Legion in Newton, Post 440 member and U.S. Army veteran Philip De Vincentis is a regular volunteer: “One time you’re flying high; another time you might be scraping bottom. You do what you have to do to handle the circumstances in your life.”

But some are reluctant to receive assistance because they worry it’s seen as a “handout,” De Vincentis said. That stigma is a barrier The Greater Boston Food Bank is working to overcome. It’s one reason the organization uses the term, Veterans Market, in its three locations: Newton, Melrose and Revere.

“They are very proud. A lot of veterans say, ‘There’s someone who needs it more than me,’” said Peretti. “To that, we say ‘This is here for you as a member of your community.’ So, we’ve moved away from the term, food pantry, to more of a community focused on inclusive welcoming.”

Peretti, whose grandfathers both fought in World War II, coordinates these veteran-focused programs and more than 30 other mobile markets across Eastern Massachusetts, which have been part of the Feeding America network since 1982.

“But none of this would happen without our partners, like the American Legion Post 440, like Raytheon Technologies, like all the volunteers,” Peretti said.

“We have the food,” she added. “But if our partners weren't there to provide support, a warehouse full of food doesn't do anything. So, we need organizations and their volunteers who know the community and who can reach out and distribute food to people who need it. Nobody is turned away.”

Click here to find out more about Raytheon Technologies’ support for food security programs and employee volunteers’ efforts in these and other community initiatives.