Department Leads Nationwide Food Drive
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2011 The Defense Department is taking a leading role in a nationwide campaign challenging federal employees to donate to their local food pantries.
The “Feds Feed Families” campaign, announced by the Office of Personnel Management on May 26, will run through the end of August, Pat Tamburrino Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for personnel policy, said.
Tamburrino is the Defense Department chairman of the food drive, which DOD is co-leading with the Agriculture Department. It’s the third year for the White House-sanctioned program, which began as part of the 2009 United We Serve Act.
For the past two years, DOD officials have participated locally in the national capital region, collecting nonperishable items and distributing them -- thousands of pounds worth -- to food pantries here. This year, they are extending the campaign to DOD installations nationwide for their own local distribution.
“Being hungry is a local phenomenon,” Tamburrino said.
Organizers felt they could be more effective by placing collection boxes at all DOD installations, especially at commissaries, to provide whatever items are most needed in the local communities. “It’s contributed locally and used locally, and we thought that was a pretty nice idea for DOD to advance,” he said.
The Defense Department goal is to collect 733,800 pounds of items during the 90-day campaign, as part of the overall federal goal of 2 million pounds, Tamburrino said.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm,” he said of the campaign. “We’ve had tremendous support in DOD and I’m really confident we’re going get to this goal.”
DOD officials “were stage ready” when the campaign began, and department civilians and military members have proven their willingness to give, Tamburrino said.
“My impression is federal employees just seem willing to say, ‘There’s a need in the community, I’m part of the community, if I can contribute, I will,’” he said.
The summer timing of the campaign is important, Tamburrino noted, to help recent victims of tornadoes and floods, and also to provide food to children who depend on public schools for two meals each day during the rest of the year.
Because the drive is locally managed, food pantries have included lists of items most needed in their areas, he said. Here, canned fruits and vegetables and boxed grains lead the list. In areas affected by natural disasters, he added, bottled water often is most needed.
From the types of foods the pantries request, Tamburrino said, $20 worth of food will give a family four or five days of nutritious meals. “That’s a big boon to a lot of people,” he said.
Because there are only three regular pickups from collection points -- one at the end of each summer month -- all items must be nonperishable, he said, and cash donations are not allowed.
Karen A. Spracher, chief of strategic analysis and reporting for DOD civilian personnel policy, is the DOD Feds Feed Families “champion.” Spracher said she is “getting emails from all over the place,” indicating the department will meet its campaign goal, and have fun while doing so.
“People are really excited about this,” she said. “I think it’s going to be something we really enjoy. People in the Department of Defense like to give, and this is going to make this summer a lot of fun.”
Tamburrino also offered a playful challenge to the campaign: “We’re a little bit competitive in DOD. I want to make my goal. I want to collect the most food. I want to be at the head of the class. I do not like being second, and many people who work here do not like being second either.”