Warm weather and longer days make some feds think of those with food insecurity

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Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of hot dogs and beer might be at hand, but there are far too many Americans living with food insecurity. So now it’s time to kick off this year’s Feds Feed Families summer food drive, led by a team at the Agriculture Department. With details, the national chairwoman of Feds Feed Families, Christa Speekmann, joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Ms. Speekmann, good to have you on.

Christa Speekmann: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

Tom Temin: And just remind us how this program all works. And I guess it kicks off June 1. So what should feds expect?

Christa Speekmann: I am excited to be here to remind the federal family that Fed Feeds Families is a volunteer food drive that encourages employees from all federal departments and agencies to give in kind contributions. So food, services and time to food banks and food pantries of their choice. We really want them to be able to give in their community so they can see where it’s having an impact. As you mentioned, this year’s campaign starts June 1 and it will run through August 31. We know that hunger is a need all year round. So Fed Feds Families will put out periodic reminders. And the other tool that we have to help remind people of the need all year round is the Fed Feed Families hub. We are so excited about the hub, which is essentially the Fed Feed Families online resource. It’s the one stop shop for all the information you need to navigate Fed Feed Families and help fight food insecurity. As you may know, this hub actually launched last year. And our goal this year is to really amplify and highlight the hub, we’ve freshened it up, we’ve streamlined and some of the things that I’d like to draw your attention to are the five ways to get involved. You can become a champion, you can learn all that we have all the tools that are out there to get involved and share that information with your colleagues. You can find food pantries and food banks in your area. We have a link to a database that has nationwide information about food banks.

Tom Temin: And let me ask you this, what are the food banks and those that directly serve the food insecure populations telling you about their needs this year, especially in light of the long pandemic we’re just emerging from?

Christa Speekmann: The needs are great. We often have this event and we really do extensive cheering during the summer months, but we know that the need is all year round. And I think that was definitely highlighted last year. They’re continuing to encourage people to not only provide food donations, but also time, they really need extra hands actually in the food banks and in the food warehouses to help redistribute and repackage.

Tom Temin: And at the hub can people find food banks that they know they can trust in the same way that every year the Combined Federal Campaign lists authorized and vetted charities? Fair to say?

Christa Speekmann: Yes. That is a way to get involved — number five, is to consider donating to food banks and food pantries through the Combined Federal Campaign. Because as Feds Feed Families is wrapping up in August, that’s just when the Combined Federal Campaign is spinning up. So it’s a really great way to make your contributions September through January. And you can also record those donations on the Fed Feed Families hub. So that’s why we call it a twofer. You’re supporting CFC, you’re also supporting Feds Feed Families.

Tom Temin: And I recall from last year that the campaign kind of set a tonnage goal for the federal government, or poundage goal for foods contributed. What’s your goal and hope for this coming summer?

Christa Speekmann: Well we haven’t set an official goal. But I will tell you that sent the campaign started in 2009. So that family food drive began in response to the 2009 United We Serve Act, which called on Americans to contribute to the nation’s economic recovery by serving in their community. Since 2009, we’ve collected 99 million pounds of food donations. So clearly, I think we want to get to the triple digits this year. And quite frankly, in 2020 alone, we collected over 7 million pounds of donations.

Tom Temin: Yeah, so that’s real food, I guess you might say. By the way, we’re speaking with Christa Speekmann. She’s the national chairwoman of the Feds Feed Families summer food drive. And this is in addition to your day job at the Agriculture Department, correct?

Christa Speekmann: Yes, I worked for the USDA, and specifically APHIS, Animal Plant Health Inspection Services, as part of my day job.

Tom Temin: Alright, so you don’t have anything to do with the cicadas going on right now?

Christa Speekmann: No, and in fact, I don’t even hear them. I’m in DC and I’ve seen evidence but I have not heard them

Tom Temin: Well come out to my neighborhood and you need your ear muffs to drown out the noise. Alright, and what made you interested in helping out in this particular campaign?

Christa Speekmann: I feel that this is a need. Addressing the hunger insecurity is something that we all can have a hand at helping, and the federal family is united against hunger.

Tom Temin: And as people contribute food by methodology number five, and it gets recorded, how do you verify that it’s really 27,000 pounds from this agency or not 26,000?

Christa Speekmann: We really rely on on our federal family for making sure that they do the best that we can.

Tom Temin: Yeah, that’s all about net weight, I suppose. And do agencies tend to establish their own local chairs to make sure that people get the word out and get the get the host out to do this work?

Christa Speekmann: Yes, we have probably hundreds of chairs across the federal government. So there’s lots of people that are leading. And there’s lots of tools and resources out there, and to help get people involved. So we really can do all that we can to end hunger.

Tom Temin: Alright. So people want to get involved, once again, tell us where that hub is and what you can do at it.

Christa Speekmann: I really encourage all of our federal employees to visit our Fed Feed Families hub.

Tom Temin: And we’ll put a link to that hub when we post the interview online.

Christa Speekmann: And I also want to draw people’s attention to how easy it is to record your donations on the Feds Feed Families hub. And not only record your donations, but see how the federal family has donated and where they’ve donated across the country. And thank you for your support.

Tom Temin: Alright. Christa Speekmann is national chairwoman of the Feds Feed Families summer food drive. Thanks so much for joining me.

Christa Speekmann: Thank you for the opportunity.

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