Defense Department military and civilian members participated in a worldwide campaign that resulted in the donation of nearly 3.3 million pounds of perishable and nonperishable food to fill local food banks that provide food for families in need.
Despite this year’s campaign being delayed for a month, the department has surpassed last year’s total by collecting 3,289,418 pounds. This year’s campaign is an even bigger success because it collected 12,338 more pounds than last year in only 60 days, said Thompson, who served as the DoD champion, or the person who oversaw this year’s Feds Feed Families campaign for the Defense Department.
“When you’re out of school that means you’re home, and the need for food is greater. So, the federal government chose to conduct the campaign during the summer months to fill the shelves in the food banks across the country,” Thompson said. “DoD pulled together and this donation was not only the most we’ve ever seen, but was done in less time.”
She noted that this year’s total equates to roughly 54,824 pounds of food donations or five semi-trucks full — each day — for 60 days.
How Feds Feed Families Began
The Feds Feed Families campaign was established in April 2009, when President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which encouraged federal employees to expand their service and support to communities, Thompson said.
The Office of Personnel Management answered the call and charged chief human capital officers to lead the program throughout the federal government, allowing the DoD in particular to campaign and collect food far beyond theNational Capital Region in concert with the Department of Agriculture’s efforts.
“We’ve been able to help others throughout the country and the world,” said Berthina Jamison, civilian personnel policy strategic program analyst. She described “gleaning organizations” throughout the United States, includingWashington, Ohio, Illinois, and Alaska, in which farmers allow DoD volunteers to visit crops and pick the second harvest for families in need.
“[The harvests] go directly to the food banks so people can put it on their tables,” Jamison said.
Jamison said campaign-affiliated activities and services organizations have donated food from overseas and a fair amount of those donations also help military members in need.
Since the first crop harvests are typically sent to grocery stores, the second harvest may not always be shipped right away, Jamison explained. So DoD, in conjunction with farmers, has been able to gather and move crops from warehouses and farms to food banks, she added.
Service Members Provide Assistance
Rama Latin, charitable campaigns administrator for the Navy, has been with the campaign since its beginning and has worked extensively with the Navy chaplains to distribute food throughout the Washington, D.C., area, and other regions including Guam, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Key West, Florida, and more.
“It’s part of the culture of philanthropy in the Navy and all the services,” Latin said. “I appreciate knowing that a lot of people won’t go hungry not just because of our efforts, but of the military members who’ve sacrificed and go the extra mile to pick, sort and deliver fresh food as a global force for good.”
Latin also explained that Naval Air Stations Jacksonville and Pensacola in Florida have collected food through a combined effort with the to ensure the donations remain robust and military and civilians converge to share food collection opportunities.
Randy Eller, the Defense Commissary Agency’s deputy director of logistics, said 155 commissaries served as Feds Feed Families donation drop-off points, and customers also purchased prepared gift packages which also made their way around the world, thanks to year-round partnerships with food banks.
“We take those donations directly to the food banks,” Eller said.
The commissary agency’s contributions alone totaled about 1,101,852 pounds, roughly a third of DoD’s total donations.
“Some of [our military members] are lower-ranking, but through their spirit of giving — even if it’s just two cans of beans — they’re doing it,” Eller said. “It’s a wonderful thing to see where their hearts are at when it comes to things like this.”
Thompson said defense agencies and organizations and the military services conduct their own marketing campaigns and requests for Feds Feed Families campaign participation.
“For example, we had directors in Civilian Personnel Policy/Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service compete internally, and we actually ended up with more than 5,000 pounds of food donated,” Thompson said. “The prize was just for some pizza. … And we won, by the way.”
Jamison shared her personal stake in the campaign.
“It’s just the most patriotic thing that we can do to serve our community,” she said. “This is America — nobody should ever go hungry … so any time that we can give to our nation and our communities, we should.”
Thompson said much more work needs to be done to fight hunger.
“I don’t think hunger is going to end — so I hope the next administration will carry on the torch of this campaign,” Thompson said. “As public servants, this is just a better way for us to give, to serve. We fight our nation’s wars, but this is still a war, a war against hunger.”
Over the past seven years, the federal workforce has collected 42.1 million pounds of food and nonperishable items, said officials, noting that during last year’s Feds Feed Families drive food donations across the federal government totaled 15 million pounds of food items.
By Amaani Lyle, @LyleDoDNews