Each year, staff and contractors across NIEHS unite to serve those in need by collecting nonperishable food items and monetary donations as part of a nationwide effort called the Feds Feed Families (FFF) program. This year’s campaign ended July 31, and was a rousing success despite serious challenges created by COVID-19.
Great need, great challenge
The 2020 campaign was markedly different than those of years past in that it focused exclusively on giving online rather than in-person donation drops at the NIEHS campus. During instances when employees did make physical donations to local pantries, they were asked to log those contributions into a digital tracking system rather than having them weighed by program organizers.
Monya Brace, NIEHS lead organizer for the food drive, said the changes due to the pandemic presented challenges. “Without being able to know how NIEHS contributions compared to other parts of NIH, or seeing the usual bags and boxes piling up in the lobbies, it was harder to know how the campaign was going for us,” she said. Nevertheless, she declared the effort a success.
Reducing food insecurity
Thanks to donations to Feds Feed Families from across the National Institutes of Health, another 297,201 pounds of food, cleaning supplies, and toiletries are available for those in need. “That level of generosity is amazing, even more so in our current context, and will truly help to fight hunger in our community,” said Brace.
“In the past several weeks, NIEHS staff have donated food and funds to food banks around the country,” said NIEHS Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D. “I can hardly think of a greater testament to the generosity of our institute.”
“According to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, nearly 600,000 people across our 34-county service area are food insecure,” said Woychik. “Sadly, that number is only expected to grow as the effects of this pandemic continue to be felt across the nation.”
2020 marks the 11th year for the government-wide campaign, which encourages federal employees to give in-kind contributions such as food, services, and time to local food banks and pantries.
Since its launch in 2009, FFF has collected more than 92 million pounds of food for donation.
(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)