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The 2018 Feds Feed Families food drive kicked off around the country on July 15 and the Agriculture Department is throwing down the challenge to all agencies to beat the 2015 record of donating almost 18 million pounds of food.
Linda Cronin, the 2018 Feds Feed Families National Program Manager, said USDA
has plans to reach that goal, but more importantly the annual campaign is creating a broader sense of community. Feds Feed Families continues through Oct. 18.
“This year in addition to all of our collection of non-perishable goods, which is really important because that food can last over a period of time, we are looking at focusing during these summer months when food banks historically have lower levels of food,” said Cronin in an interview with Federal News Radio.
“In addition to that, we do events such as gleaning,” she continued. “Gleaning is a process of going out to a farm, which may have planted extra of the crops or the food is not at the grade they need it to be, and harvest that food for local organizations that can then make that fresh, local produce available in the community.”
For this ninth Feds Feed Families campaign, Cronin said the focus isn’t just in the Washington, D.C. area, but nationwide at all federal agencies. Since 2009, federal employees have donated more than 80 million pounds of non-perishable foods, including 10.4 million pounds last year.
“USDA is working to identify opportunities for gleaning. Every Wednesday we will be featuring in the national capital area the opportunities that are available for gleaning,” she said. “At the same time, we also are encouraging organizations, especially across the country, to identify opportunities and build a community around the other federal partners in their areas to do these activities as well.”
Cronin, who is in her second tour as the national program manager, said USDA will take advantage of its large footprint across the country as well as its relationships with state food and agriculture councils to promote the campaign.
Cronin, who has worked at USDA for 27 years, said Feds Feed Families is working with the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C. to distribute food through its network of more than 500 partner organizations.
“We also work with various farms within the Maryland and Virginia areas to do gleaning activities and we encourage agency personnel to reach out to local food banks and food kitchens in their communities to identify opportunities,” she said.
She said USDA also is partnering with AmpleHarvest.org, which connects individuals with gardens that have extra fruits and vegetables that can be donated to food banks.
Cronin said the 2018 campaign will feature many of the similar events of previous efforts to spur donations such as a chili cook off or other competitions.
“Feds are out there trying to fight hunger in whatever we can do in whatever way we can help,” she said. “It may be a can a day or a can a week, or it might going out and doing some volunteer work. However it resonates with the individual and however they feel comfortable in supporting this campaign we are grateful for everyone’s effort and support as we move forward.”