Federal employees are outpacing a record-setting 2012 in their annual food drive to diminish hunger in America.
In June, they donated 477,000 pounds of food through the Feds Feed Families program, more than double the amount raised in the same period in 2012. In July, feds donated 1.4 million pounds of food, also a dramatic increase from 2012 totals.
John Berry started the program in 2009, when he was director of the Office of Personnel Management. The drive runs every summer and aims to provide food for children who do not have school lunch programs. The program is especially vital due to Americans’ tendency to go on vacation in the summer and therefore donate less frequently.
Doug Keeler, the program’s 2013 director and an Agriculture Department employee, said he hopes to surpass the overall 2012 total of 7.2 million pounds of food, federal employee hardships notwithstanding.
“Despite furloughs, despite pay freezes, despite everything else that is going on,” Keller said, “federal employees are still filling up the plate.”
Keeler added some federal employees themselves rely on food banks.
“We can relate to those that are less fortunate than us,” he said. “Federal employees are a compassionate bunch.”
Last year, Keeler’s Agriculture Department took home the award for most contributions, but said it will be difficult to retain that distinction.
“[The Defense Department] is the big dog in the house and they’re looking to take the title back,” Keeler said.
Feds Feed Families can only accept food donations, as the Combined Federal Campaign is the lone drive organized by federal government that can solicit cash donations from its workforce. Employees can bring cans, bags or boxes of food to designated drop boxes in their buildings, or order them online and have them delivered directly to the appropriate food bank.
Moving forward, USDA and OPM will consider expanding Feds Feed Families to a year-long program, as the agencies “don’t want to put a dent in hunger, they want to end it.”