Feds get 'fired up,' donate millions of pounds of food

Thursday - 8/22/2013, 10:37am EDT

Doug Keeler, national program manager of Feds Feed Families.

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The dark cloud of sequestration and furloughs continues to loom, but that hasn't dampened the generosity of federal workers.

Feds are continuing to donate food and other non-perishable items through the Feds Feed Families campaign, supporting families across America.

"Federal employees are a very compassionate bunch, and we like making a difference. Public service is our calling," said Doug Keeler, national program manager of Feds Feed Families, on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

Doug

Doug Keeler, national program manager, Feds Feed Families

In the U.S., 50 million people are challenged with hunger, including 17 million children, Keeler said.

Feds Feed Families started when Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and former Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry realized that food donations were dropping during the summer months because many families were on vacation. The campaign has run every summer since 2009, and to date it has collected more than 15 million pounds of food, including 7.2 million pounds last year alone.

"We are very hopeful that we can surpass and beat our best this year," Keeler said. "We're asking everyone to get fired up and beat their best." By the end of the campaign on Aug. 28, Keeler hopes to have collected a total of 8.3 million pounds in food donations.

The campaign is well on its way to meeting that goal. In 2012, Feds Feed Families collected 222,000 pounds of food in June and 1.4 million in July. This year, the campaign collected 477,000 pounds in June and 2.16 million in July.

Feds donate goods such as bags of rice, pasta, canned and boxed goods, bottled water and other non-perishable items. The Capital Area Food Bank also asks for donations of non-food items, including paper towels, cleaning supplies and toiletries. Employees bring the goods into work, and the agencies collect them in boxes that can hold up to 200 pounds.

"It's the chance for us to do something good for those who aren't as fortunate as us," Keeler said. "At the same time, it's a chance for us to have fun doing it."

castle

HUD builds a sculpture out of can donations.

Federal agencies have come up with creative ways to get their employees involved in Feds Feed Families. Some hold contests for building the best "can castles" with the goods they collect. Other agencies have events like chili cook-offs.

"As a USDA employee, I'm proud to say that most of the goods dropped off are USDA certified, wholesome and good for everyone," Keeler said. He added that he has not yet seen anyone drop off candy bars.

With the donations rolling in, Feds Feed Families is "putting a dent" in hunger. But Keeler is also interested in the bigger picture.

"A 30 percent food waste happens in our country right now. We're talking about capturing the wholesome part of that ... that's a work in progress," he said. "We can conquer hunger in America."

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