Feds Feed Families has ‘knock-out’ summer campaign

Federal employees donated 14.4 million pounds of food to food banks nationwide as part of Feds Feeds Families summer campaign.

Feds Feeds Families had a “knock out” performance during its 2014 summer food drive. Over the length of the 5-month campaign, federal employees collected 14.8 million pounds of food nationwide, compared to 8.9 million pounds in 2013.

FFF announced the results of the national campaign during an awards ceremony Wednesday at the Department of Agriculture’s Jamie L. Whitten Building in Washington.

“I always knew that federal employees were very generous and very kind and thoughtful,” said Karen Comfort, the 2014 FFF national program manager. “It’s a reassurance for me that it’s a privilege to be a civil servant and to be a federal employee, because we are known for our generosity. We are known for stepping in and answering the call whenever, wherever and however we’re needed.”

Comfort credited the jump in contributions to more federal employees and agencies getting involved in “gleaning,” in which volunteers gather leftover crops from fields that have been previously harvested.

“We pushed gleaning nationwide,” she said. “So, we also had a lot of federal employees all throughout the United States involved in gleaning, I think that was a huge factor as well. … We turned our focus more so this year out to the field, to make sure that employees understood that Feds Feeds Families is not just a national capital area region initiative, it is a nationwide initiative.”

The departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Defense, and the Social Security Administration were the top contributing agencies in the campaign. For the second year in a row, USDA was the top food gatherer of all agencies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received the “Knock Out” Award, as the agency with the greatest increase in contributions from last year.

Comfort recalled a meaningful incident that occurred when she met a woman at her first gleaning event in Virginia. The woman related her experience of losing a ob and then having to go to food banks in order to survive.

“Just thinking about the fact that often times hardworking individuals have circumstances that happen that are beyond their control, and that Feds Feeds Families fills that gap for them until they can get back on their feet,” Comfort said. “Then they want to turn around and give back. I think that was the most touching testimonial that I was able to witness personally about the significance and importance of the work that we did here this past summer.”

With the end of the 2014 campaign, Comfort’s tenure as national program manager comes to a close. Her advice for next year’s program manager is for that person to be a constant pusher, cheerleader, encourager and adviser for federal employees in the campaign.

“Help people think outside the box,” she said. “Let them know that maybe they’re not able to contribute monetarily, but they can get out and glean and give of their time and give of their efforts. People are generous. Make sure that people in the field understand that they are a part of this initiative and take advantage of that. Get out in the field. Encourage people.”

Even though the FFF summer campaign is over, gleaning is a year-round process. Comfort encouraged people to continue to contribute time to gleaning groups in their area or even volunteer at local food banks to help sort food.

FFF partnered with two gleaning groups during its summer campaign: the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network and the Society of St. Andrew.

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