'Feds Feed Families' Distributes Food to Local Programs
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 White cardboard boxes full of food collected at Defense Department agencies stand stacked in a food bank warehouse here, ready for sorting and repackaging to feed those in need.
In the northeast quadrant of the city, the Capital Area Food Bank on Taylor Street receives, organizes and distributes the nonperishable goods that DOD and other federal agencies contribute to the “Feds Feed Families” campaign, said Molly McGlinchy, food resources coordinator at the warehouse.
"It's a phenomenal support system for us," she said of the annual federal food campaign, which began June 15 and ends in late August.
"[The food drive] changes and grows every year," McGlinchy said. She's worked at the food bank since Feds Feed Families' inception in 2009.
Food donations across the federal government in the Feds Feed Families 2011 campaign totaled 5.7 million pounds -- nearly three times the goal of 2 million pounds. DOD exceeded its own goal of 733,800 pounds of food, officials said. This year, DOD looks to collect 1.5 million pounds of food donations for nationwide distribution, more than twice last year's goal.
"We are so grateful for the participation from all of the federal employees who donate each month," McGlinchy said. "For every 1.3 pounds of donated food the Capital Area Food Bank receives, we are able to distribute about one meal to our neighbors."
Once the donations are delivered to the food bank, the Feds Feed Families contributions blend in with the food bank's overall nonperishable offerings in a new, 100,000-square-foot warehouse on Puerto Rico Avenue. The new building opens this week to meet the growing demands on the nearby 32-year-old, 42,000-square-foot warehouse on Taylor Street.
Food bank officials say 641,000 people in the Washington metro area are at risk of hunger. Feds Feed Families is led by the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, in partnership with the Office of Personnel Management and the Defense and Agriculture departments, according to its website.
A fact sheet on the site says the food bank expects to feed 478,100 people this year, with federal contributions a part of that.
Serving a network of 700 nonprofit groups, the food bank distributes to groups as small as church pantries, which might offer food on a monthly basis, and as large as soup kitchens that serve daily meals, McGlinchy said.
The food bank serves people in the District of Columbia and in Maryland's Montgomery and Prince George's counties. A second warehouse in Virginia serves 230 nonprofit feeding programs and agencies, and handles the city of Alexandria and Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties.
Military bases and other federal agencies outside the national capital metro area distribute food to local agencies to meet the needs of the hungry, she said.
"[We] get a wide range of donations and have the ability to distribute different types of food to different organizations," McGlinchy said, adding that the food bank does the food collection legwork for its smaller partner agencies.
Also, because the federally contributed food consists of canned items, distribution sometimes lasts through the rest of the year, McGlinchy said.
Most people who donate likely are aware of the current difficult economic climate, she said. The campaign is run during the summer months for a variety of reasons, she explained. One reason is that some children might not get their nutritional needs met while out of school.
"I think people who donate are thankful for what they have, and want to reach out to the community," McGlinchy said. While Feds Feed Families accepts only canned goods and cannot contribute money, she said, the food bank receives monetary donations through the Combined Federal Campaign.
With a wide variety of contributed food, McGlinchy said, the Feds Feed Families program contribution guidelines allow the food bank to carry the necessary items. "We get exactly what we ask for," she said.
The food bank for Feds Feed Families' has a "most wanted list," which includes:
-- Fruits canned in light syrup or their own juices;
-- Low-sodium or “no salt added” canned vegetables;
-- Multigrain cereals;
-- Brown and white rice, oatmeal, bulgur, quinoa, couscous, and macaroni and cheese;
-- Canned proteins, such as tuna, salmon, chicken, peanut butter and beans;
-- Low-sodium canned foods such as low-sodium beef stew, chili, and chicken-noodle and turkey and rice soups;
-- All kinds and sizes of 100-percent juice, including juice boxes;
-- Whole grain snacks low in added sugars, including individually packaged snacks, cereal bars, pretzels and sandwich crackers; and
-- Baking goods, such as flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and boxed mixes.