Donning a sea of orange T-shirts, federal employees walked down the National Mall last week, but it wasn’t just for a morning stroll through the city.
The group of roughly 150 feds, from agencies including the departments of Energy, and Housing and Urban Development, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), showed up to the culmination of an interagency effort to collect food donations across the federal workforce.
The Feds Feed Families (FFF) initiative, a governmentwide program aiming to help end hunger, boost engagement and promote healthier lifestyles, finished with a 30-minute walk downtown on Sept. 29. Called Feds Walk in Support of Health and Hunger Relief (FedsWISH), the event celebrated a total of 7.2 million pounds of food donations, and counting, to the FFF initiative this year.
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“I think it shows just the level of commitment and giving that is very indicative of the federal workforce,” Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja told Federal News Network at the event. “[The program] gives us ways to bond to create community.”
The walk wasn’t limited to Washington, either – more than 500 federal employees across the country signed up to participate in FedsWISH. The nationwide aspect was particularly important, Ahuja said, since about 80% of the federal workforce lives outside the nation’s capital.
“This is something we’ve been pushing that you can do in your own neighborhood,” Ahuja said. “Do your walk, and then deliver those resources to food banks … I think it’s just a reminder to not take our foot off the pedal.”
FedsWISH is a combined effort from OPM and the Agriculture Department, and part of the FFF initiative, which launched in 2009. OPM originally ran the campaign, but USDA eventually took the reins, though the two agencies still partner on the effort.
“I remember like it was yesterday, when there was the baton passed from OPM overseeing the national effort, onto USDA,” said Oscar Gonzales, USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration, at the FedsWISH event. “I was at the table when that was negotiated and discussed, and OPM has lived up to its word to provide USDA support every step of the way.”
Since FFF began, federal employees have collected millions of pounds of food and non-perishable items in donations. Federal employees who live outside of Washington, D.C., can also help support their local communities by coordinating with their Federal Executive Board (FEB), OPM said.
The campaign is part of a larger effort from the Biden administration to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030. The White House also held a conference on hunger, nutrition and health on Sept. 28 in support of the administration’s goal — a first of its kind in 50 years, Ahuja said.
And there are more opportunities coming up for federal employees to contribute, said Nicole Wright, OPM’s deputy associate director for Senior Executive Service and performance management, and a lead for the FedsWISH event. The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) encompasses many of these ongoing efforts.
“Over the next few weeks, we will be spotlighting CFC and again encouraging families so they can support [ending] hunger through the CFC effort,” Wright told Federal News Network. “We have agency events, similar to Feds Feed Families [and] the cutest pet contest. We have our food kickoffs, we have our baking events … We tried to be innovative in the events we utilize to promote CFC.”
At the FedsWISH event alone, the agencies collected nearly 2,300 pounds in donations. And that’s not the end of FFF this year — federal employees can still donate healthy, non-perishable goods to the cause.
“We also know how to incorporate a little friendly competition amongst the federal departments,” Gonzales told Federal News Network. “I’ve got to give a shout-out to the Department of Defense — nobody comes close to what they’re able to do in terms of overall food contributions. But we all as a federal family just don’t lose sight of what we’re trying to do today to raise awareness, reminding not just federal employees, but their neighbors and others in the community, about how they can play a role in donating food items.”
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