Kara Dethlefsen lined up early on a recent morning for the food pantry at the Camp Pendleton Marine Base near San Diego. She and her husband, both active-duty Marines, took turns holding their 4-month-old daughter.

“We most like to get the avocados, lemons, some vegetables to cook up,” says Dethlefsen, 27, who first heard about the pantry from an on-base nurse after giving birth.

“This probably saves us anywhere from $100-300 each time we come,” she says. That’s key for her young family. Her husband is getting ready to transition to civilian life after five years of military service, and they’re not sure what financial challenges that could bring.

The food pantry is run by Saddleback Church, one of several faith-based groups that operate on base to bring donated food to military families every month. The pantry offers fresh fruit and vegetables, canned food, meat and baby items like diapers. Typically, about 100 families show up, according to Saddleback pastor Steve Mahnke.

“I always tell my friends, my neighbors, I show them what I got and they seem to be coming,” says Sarai Vizcarrondo, 41, as she pushed a cart of produce and canned goods to her car.

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