Nominations are closed. Come back February 3 to meet the candidates!

Heather Campbell

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Eielson Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
As a young graduate student, I thought I had the world at my fingertips. I was studying at a leading research university with a full scholarship to complete my Ph.D., but everything changed when I met this guy- as many of our stories do. Within a year of meeting, we were married and I had converted my research to a Master’s degree to leave early- after all, it’s hard to use a Ph.D. in research and academia when you move often. I took the only job in my career field available in our new town, a poorly paid, entry-level position, and I set off to live my fairy tale life with my man in uniform- I had no idea what I was getting into. By our 2nd anniversary, I had two babies and a deployed husband. By our 4th anniversary, we were in remote, frozen Interior Alaska with baby 3 on the way. With 3 babies in only 4 years’ time, we struggled to find (and afford) childcare. Due to our remote location, limited career prospects for me, and the seriously lacking childcare, we reluctantly decided to become a one-income family. Being one income with 3 degrees’ worth of debt between us and living in a location that’s 30% more expensive than the national average was difficult and tested our marriage greatly. In this season, we learned what it meant to sacrifice as a family as we serve alongside our servicemembers. But even more than that, I experienced firsthand the amazing support network within the military community. I met caring, educated, driven men and women who are supporting our communities while following their spouses around the world. I learned how important it is to build a support network around myself for when Murphy’s Law rears its ugly head during the most inconvenient times, and how it feels to be the help when someone needs it most. Most importantly, I learned firsthand the struggle of food insecurity in military families and how to use my expertise as a Registered Dietitian and family feeding expert to start to make a difference in my community.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
In Fall 2017 at Eielson AFB, Alaska I used my expertise in family nutrition to start a free monthly class for how to eat healthy on a budget through the Airmen & Family Readiness Center (AFRC). In each class, I cooked for the attendees and taught them how to choose affordable ingredients for our remote location. At Squadron Officer School (SOS) on Maxwell AFB, students often bring their families while they attend an in-residence course for about 6 weeks. These young families purchased essentials to live in their hotel rooms, then donated/sold them at the end of the course. (This repeated with every student class since we didn’t have a way to share between classes.) So, I created a lending locker & food pantry for SOS students and their families to gather what they need, and donate at the end of their time at SOS. We first hosted the lending locker out of our home, before moving it to the schoolhouse where we helped dozens of families prior to the pandemic.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
As a new military spouse, I worked closely with military families receiving income-based nutrition support services at the local health department. Since 2016 I’ve served as a Key Spouse, as well as held board positions in both the Mothers of Preschoolers chapel ministry and the Eielson Spouses’ Club from 2015-2018. In 2018, I led the Hurricane Michael relief for our squadron. I also created a lending locker for the visiting students & families of Squadron Officer School. Once the pandemic struck, I helped distribute school lunches to our community. In 2020, I joined the Military Special Operations Family Collaborative to help create a cookbook to help make mealtimes easier for SOF families. I also joined In-Dependent, Inc in 2020 to help make wellness accessible to all military and first responder spouses. In 2021 after co-authoring a paper about the difficulty of feeding families in the pandemic, I became a more public advocate for the 1 in 5 military families facing food insecurity.

Describe how you support your community:
One of the most essential supports to military life has been our fellow military families and faith community. Sometimes, when the support we needed was lacking, we built it around ourselves. In our first tour in Alaska, our base chapel did not have an active women’s ministry. As a new mom, my lifeline during a prior deployment had been gathering together with women who shared my beliefs/ season of life, and I knew I would need it in our new, remote location. I started an in-home group that spent the next two years together, supporting one another, praying together, and intentionally building what became a second family to us. Similarly, once we relocated, our new church did not have a marriage-focused ministry, and we were in a season of needing support. We started a married couples’ group, of mostly military families, to create support for ourselves and our peers who were looking to strengthen their marriages. Military spouses are experts in creating the community we need.

What do you advocate for? Why?
According to the newest data, 1 in 5 military families is struggling with food insecurity, which according to the USDA, is the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of a lack of money and other resources. There is a food bank on or near every single military installation nationwide- and that should tell us something about the economic status of our most vulnerable military families. One recent survey found that 1 in 3 military teens report food insecurity in their homes. Another study found a strong correlation between food insecurity in the past two years and suicidal ideation. This is a crisis that is not going to be solved with food banks and grocery giveaways alone. We need policy changes within military pay, support services eligibility, and spouse employment; we need educational resources for military families that go beyond personal finance counseling. We need action from our policymakers and leadership to solve the crisis of food insecurity in military families.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
In addition to my volunteer work, I have become a passionate speaker, writer, and advocate for military families. As a speaker, I’ve appeared for organizations including AMSE Agency, In-Dependent Summit, and the Women’s Leadership Summit for Junior League of Montgomery. I’ve been featured on podcasts like Run Lift Mom, Hearts and Stripes, and The Mom Shuffle. I’ve written articles for In-dependent, Blue Star Families, Quiet Days magazine, MilHousing Network, and the Mom Shuffle. I co-authored a peer-reviewed article published in PubMed and appeared on my local news in 2021. More recently, I’ve met with military leadership, military service organizations, and my state’s representatives to bring attention to this crisis. Starting in 2022, in partnership with In-Dependent, we have launched a program focused on equipping military families with the resources and education they need to feed themselves well without spending a fortune.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
Being nominated as an MSOY candidate is an honor. Over the last few years, I’ve connected with many amazing men and women within the MSOY community and am in awe of the ways they serve in so many different areas of need. As a part of the MSOY family, I can continue to advocate for the needs of nearly 1 in 5 military families facing food insecurity. With my professional expertise in the complexity of this issue, we can advocate for policy changes to help protect our most vulnerable families. We will continue to create free resources to ensure that our service members and their families are not relying on food banks to support our systemic shortcomings. Instead, we will be educating and empowering our military families to have the tools they need to achieve economic stability in their homes. Food insecurity affects our mission readiness, family resiliency, and servicemember retention rates, and the men and women serving our country deserve better.

Nominations

Heather Campbell is a shining example of what compassion in action looks like. As a health and wellness advocate, she continues to use her voice to bring about change for the vulnerable in our community. Heather, a licensed dietician and family food guru, uses her gifts to educate, equip, and empower military community members who are experiencing food insecurity. I believe her work will revolutionize the way we engage with difficult topics like food shortages, insecurities, and the root issues which cause them.
- by Megan Brown

I have had the pleasure of volunteering at InDependent alongside Heather Campbell for over a year around topics related to military spouse and family wellness. She is passionate about helping military spouses feed their families in a way that reduces stress, removes guilt, and supports a healthy lifestyle. Heather is always looking for more information, advocating on behalf of military families to community leaders, and encourages her fellow team mates to live healthy lives. This past year, Heather PCSed OCONUS and during that time she used her experience to help military families PCSing and educate the military community. She uses her experience and quest for resources to engage community leaders on ways we can work together to better our Military Family. It's been an honor working alongside her on educational wellness programs, and I believe her efforts should be recognized and celebrated!
- by Evie King

Heather has an incredible passion and commitment to helping families eat better, especially when their budget is tight and their circumstances are hard. Her talents are so needed as we have seen so many military families and teens describe going without enough to eat, especially following these challenging and history pandemic times.
- by KaLea Lehman

Heather's heart for giving back, volunteering and serving others is awe-inspiring. She has championed food insecurity and made it her mission to ensure no one goes hungry, especially our military community.
- by Jessica Manfre

Heather is super passionate about changing the story of Food Insecurity one family at a time. She is dedicated to educating young airmen (lol... really everyone she comes in contact with)and families how to make their budget work for them while eating well and having fun doing it. Here are just a few of Heather's Initiatives and Volunteer efforts: Military Special Operations Family Collaborative Independent (military and first responder spouse wellness) Milspouse creative ambassador for military spouse entrepreneurs Key spouse Entrepreneur with Glory Nutrition Researching and advocating for military food insecurity. Heather is definitely deserving of this honor.
- by Kennita Williams