WASHINGTON, June 28, 2023 – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shepherded in the 2023 summer campaign of the Feds Feed Families program, a voluntary food drive that encourages federal employees to make in-kind contributions, including food, services, and time, to food banks and pantries of their choice. This year’s theme is Fighting Hunger – Giving Hope.
“We’re the richest country on earth. But even here, people are hungry, and people don’t have enough food,” said USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Kevin Shea at the official launch event in Washington on Monday that highlighted food and nutrition insecurity, the power of innovation, and the importance of donating to local food systems.
During his keynote address, Shea explained that USDA operates a variety of effective nutrition assistance programs designed to help meet people’s basic food and nutrition needs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children ( WIC) and school meal programs.
Shea added that one way federal employees can supplement government programs is by supporting food banks and pantries through the Feds Feeds Families campaign.
The Feds Feed Families campaign was launched in 2009. In 2022, the program raised more than 8 million pounds of food and in-kind donations to food systems nationwide. In its 14th year, the program is nearing the goal of donating and delivering nearly 100 million pounds of food.
“USDA is the designated lead agency for Feds Feed Families. But we work together as a federal community to be successful on this campaign,” said Andrea Simao, the 2023 Feds Feed Families National Chair.
The summer campaign was launched to help food banks meet the increased demand for food during the summer break, when donations are typically lower and families with children do not have access to school meal programs.
Daryl Wright, vice president of Community Outreach for So Others Might Eat (SOME), a Washington DC-based non-profit that started as a soup kitchen in 1970 but has evolved to assist people experiencing poverty and homelessness, spoke about the importance of donating to the food bank area.
Wright credits the Feds Feed Families initiative with empowering SOME to reach people in the city who are challenged with meeting basic food needs in part due to food deserts, or areas lacking access to affordable nutritious food.
“We have 89 full sales grocery stores, and only three of them are east of the river, where you have over 147,000 families competing [for] three grocery stores,” Wright said.
Noting campaigns like Feds Feed Families are vital to getting essential food to people daily, Wright reported, “We were able to provide last year alone 27,000 pounds of food that [were] given to families in need within the communities.”
Gary Oppenheimer, the founder and executive director of AmpleHarvest.org, a non-profit program that helps end food waste and hunger nationwide, gave a speech on food waste and the impact of gardeners’ donations.
According to Oppenheimer, 40 percent of all households have people who garden – in their homes, communities, on rooftops, in container gardens – and they come from all walks of life.
Oppenheimer says that there are millions of people in this country who are food insecure to include minorities, families with children, veterans, and that these people have limited access to healthy food. According to him, they go to a food pantry, and may not always find fresh food.
“The kicker is that people who are gardening usually have surplus food, and there are people who need that food,” Oppenheimer said, noting in the past food bank systems encouraged donations of non-perishable goods rather than fresh food, which likely prevented gardeners from donating their produce.
“All that surplus food would funnel into the food pantry, so that rather than that food going to waste, it can get to the pantry and then get to the families in the community,” Oppenheimer said. “They are neighbors in communities living across the country – side by side.”
With an innovative solution in mind, Oppenheimer launched AmpleHarvest.org in 2009. Today, it works as a cloud-based solution, connecting home and community gardeners directly with local food pantries that will accept their produce as donations. Nearly 8,069 local food pantries across all 50 states participate. AmpleHarvest.org is now rolling out a program specifically for Native American reservations. These efforts complement USDA’s Farm to Food Bank Projects that have the goal of reducing food waste through the donation of food to emergency feeding organizations.
The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) has been a key partner in the annual summer campaign. CAFB’s Deputy Chief of Programs and Innovation Molly McGlinchy said many households are still recovering from challenges experienced over the past two years, to include higher food prices, and credited each agency for making America’s communities stronger through the Feds Feed Families campaign by supporting food banks nationwide .
Katie Wolf of USDA’s Partnerships for Data Innovations, which hosts FFF website’s The Hub, gave an overview of the site. She shared new features to include an Events section which displays events taking place across the country, and a Recorded Donations Dashboard, which lists cumulative donations by departments and agencies.
Photos and the recorded livestream from Monday’s launch event are available for viewing.
To learn more about the 2023 campaign, upcoming events, and enhancements to the Feds Feed Families website, visit The Hub.
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