By MC2 Greg Hall
Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs
Beginning in March of 2020, food banks, pantries, and other charitable food organizations worldwide have experienced a sharp surge in need for their services.
It is no coincidence that this is the same time when restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic began to take effect.
The pandemic increased the strain on individuals and families to provide basic necessities, like food, for themselves and their families, driving many to turn to local food banks and pantries to get the support they needed in a trying time.
Starting in 2009, the Feds Feed Families campaign has encouraged employees from all federal departments and agencies to give in-kind contributions like food, services, and time to local food banks and pantries. Now, during COVID-19, the need for this support has become more acute.
For Navy activities on Oahu, collection efforts were coordinated by Chief Religious Program Specialist Gregory Bailey, who targeted locations where the largest number of donors could conveniently make donations.
“As the point of contact for Commander, Navy Region Hawaii (CNRH), I was responsible for placing donation boxes in high traffic areas such as region headquarters that would allow staff to donate whatever they could,” said Bailey.
“We amassed over 37,000 pounds of non-perishable goods that we donated to the Hawaii Food Bank and collected $47,144.23 in donations for the campaign,” said Bailey. “Sailors from CNRH also volunteered to help distribute food to the local community with the Hawaii food bank staff in which we were able to service 500 cars during the event.
The Hawaii Food Bank has expressed great gratitude for our efforts and donations in order to feed thousands of Hawaii families in need.”
Bailey said he would deliver food items collected on base to the Hawaii Food Bank where they would be added to their inventory. He would collect a receipt from the food bank and report on the donations to Commander, Navy Installations Command and ultimately to the Feds Feed Families database.
The campaign ran from the beginning of June until the end of August. During that time, participating agencies and partners tried to encourage community members to provide support.
“CNRH did a wonderful job advertising the campaign, in our plan of the week, the base marquee, and at the commissary and Navy Exchange (NEX),” said Bailey. “A large portion of the donations came from both the commissary and Navy Exchange. We had collection sites at every NEX mini mart and both local commissaries that allowed patrons to donate both non-perishable goods and money.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the lead agency for the campaign, Feds Feed Families has collected more than 99 million pounds of food for donation since the program was launched in 2009. In 2020 alone, federal employees donated more than 7 million pounds. The 2021 campaign focuses on online donations and virtual food drives, while also providing guidance for in-person donations and events as appropriate.
Though it is a federal campaign with far reaching effects, the local impact can be felt by federal employees in the communities where they live.
“I feel very grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Bailey. “I felt very proud and honored to be the representative for the campaign and would do it again without question.”
With 12 years of impact, and countless lives touched and helped during those years of service, the Feds Feed Families campaign will continue to help local communities. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic have proved how invaluable campaigns like this can be.