Fort McCoy News Oct. 14, 2016

DOD Feds Feed Families campaign breaks record

Department of Defense News

WASHINGTON — Department of Defense (DOD) 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 the 2016 campaign being delayed for a month, the department surpassed the 2015 total by collecting 3,289,418 pounds. The 2016 campaign is an even bigger success because it collected 12,338 more pounds than last year in only 60 days, said Valerie Thompson, who oversaw this year's Feds Feed Families campaign for the DOD.

"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."

How it 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 the National 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, including Washington, Ohio, Illinois, and Alaska, in which farmers allow DOD volunteers to 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.

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

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.

McCoy team donates
300 pounds of food

Fort McCoy community members donated about 300 pounds of food and supplies to the food drive, according to Staff Sgt. Lance Holtgeerts with Fort McCoy Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison.

Collected items are donated to local communities each year. Couleecap in Sparta received the 2016 donations. In 2015, donations were given to a food pantry in Tomah.

(Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office.)

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; and Key West, Fla.

"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 Marine Corps 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 1.1 million 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."

Friendly competition

Thompson said defense agencies, organizations, and 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.

Since 2009, the federal workforce has collected 42.1 million pounds of food.