It Might Not Be the Holidays, But It’s Still Donation Time

Air Force members load a pallet with donated food at the Your Connection Center at Hill Air Force Base in Layton, Utah, for the Feds Feed Families food drive. U.S. Air Force Photo by Todd Cromar/Released

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

I know — it’s summer, and we’re all hitting the pool, taking leave and generally filling up our time with fun stuff. But it’s also a critical time for food banks to fill up their shelves so they can continue serving less fortunate families.

Many food banks struggle to keep food stocked during the summer months, but the Feds Feed Families campaign has helped lessen that problem. Since it began in 2009, the program has collected more than 39 million pounds of food; 14.9 million of those pounds were donated government-wide just last year.

Single-donation items picked specifically for the Feds Feeds Families program sit on a rack at the Malmstrom Air Force Base Commissary. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt

“Food banks participating through the years have expressed that they really depend on the Feds Feed Families campaign,” said Jennifer Davis, the Department of Defense champion for Feds Feed Families. “A few of them said they’d have to close their doors at certain points during the summer if it weren’t for the support of the campaign.”

DoD has played a big role in the effort. So how can you get involved?

1)      Buy needed items and drop them off in boxes at designated locations at your office or installation. The campaign said it’s looking for healthy items, with an emphasis on non-perishables.Click here for a list of recommended items.

“The most sought-after items are things like juice, baking goods, healthy snacks that are whole grain or low in added sugars, and canned fruits and vegetables,” said Paige Hinkle-Bowles, the DoD chair for the campaign.

The Defense Commissary Agency also has a program where people can buy prepackaged items to go toward the campaign. Last year, commissaries alone collected more than 855,000 pounds of food.

“That’s a great opportunity for individuals to be able to donate goods,” Hinkle-Bowles said.

2)      Another cool, more environmentally-friendly way to help? Gleaning. That’s when people go to local farms and pick produce that can be donated to food pantries, which accept fresh food (most food banks do not). Gleaning is something the campaign is looking for people and organizations to take advantage of this year.

A federal employee collects produce at a gleaning event at Miller Farm in Clinton, Maryland, on July 17, 2015. Photo courtesy of USDA

A federal employee collects produce at a gleaning event at Miller Farm in Clinton, Maryland, on July 17, 2015. Photo courtesy of USDA

“It’s a great opportunity for farms that would otherwise have harvested vegetables and fruits that would be turned under and wasted. They invite volunteers to come in and harvest whatever fruit that particular farm has,” Davis said, adding that it can also be a great team-building experience.

Groups like the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network coordinate with farms to get the produce to the food pantries. You can find a pantry accepting fresh food donations in your area here.

3)      If you can’t find the time for those options, there’s always the virtual way. DoD employees can pick an online food retailer of their choice, then buy whatever items they want and have them delivered to a local food bank.

Visit feedingamerica.org to find a food bank in your area. When asked where to have the donations delivered, employees should enter the following:

Local Food Bank’s Name
Attn: Feds Feed Families – DoD
Food bank’s address

Then, don’t forget to tell your Feds Feed Families point of contact what you donated so it can be added to your agency or installation’s total.

“It’s a great opportunity for those out in the field who perhaps may not be close to a food bank to donate,” Davis said.

4)      Those who want to help by doing more than donating can also volunteer hours at their local food bank to help with collections.

The Feds Feed Families campaign kicked off earlier this month and runs through Oct. 2. Last year, DoD employees donated more than 3.1 million pounds of food. See if you can help top that total this year!

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