At Hill Air Force Base, Feds Feed Families

Two Cans Of Corn And A Jar Of Peanut Butter

Federal employees donated more than 10 million pounds of food in an annual food drive

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Feds Feed Families initiative was started in 2009 as a way to make sure food banks and similar charitable organizations stayed well stocked during the summer months, when they traditionally see a drop in donations and an increase in need. But so much food gets collected by the initiative that participating food banks are helped for as much as a year, says Betty-Ann Bryce, who organized the program this year.

As national program manager, it fell to Bryce to not just run the three-month initiative, but to create it more or less from the ground up—no small task considering that the program solicits donations from every single federal agency, and must include their field offices as well. Management of the program rotates among USDA departments each year, with department heads nominating a program manager, who works full-time on the initiative for four months. “It’s quite a lot of work,” Bryce told Good Turns recently. “You have to design a strategy and set it and execute it in a short space of time. You have to own your failures and successes and move on quickly, because a big part of the job is to coordinate across agencies with a lot of different cultures, a lot of different rules for what they can do and cannot do, and a lot of different ways of communicating and reaching staff.”

“Despite working for rural development, I’d never really had to go on a farm and pick collard greens and squash”

“Trying to coordinate across such a wide spectrum definitely kept me on toes throughout whole campaign,” she says. “In any given week I was talking to over 100 people trying to help them with the individual campaigns.”

When this year’s program wrapped up at the end of September, Bryce says, agencies had contributed more than 10.4 million pounds of food—much of which was collected by gleaning excess fresh fruits and vegetables from farms and restaurants, including a great deal of food gleaned by Bryce herself, who usually works as a financial investment specialist for the USDA’s water and waste program. “Despite working for rural development, I’d never really had to go on a farm and pick collard greens and squash and things like that. Through the campaign, I did that three days a week from start to finish. That really gave me increased respect for farms and the value they add.”

By the end of the campaign, Bryce had enlisted the participation of over 70 federal agencies, including offices in every state. (Airmen from Hill Air Force Base in Utah lend a hand with a previous year’s Fed Feeds Families program in the photo above.) “It’s such a small effort from federal employees and of course their families,” Bryce says. “It’s just your two cans of corn and a jar of peanut butter once a week for three months, but it changes lives.”

(Photo by Todd Cromar)

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