USDA employees raised about 40 semi-trailers worth of food nationwide during the 3rd annual Feds Feed Families Food Drive! Put another way, 40 semi-trailers is equivalent to an astonishing 1,791,393 pounds of food. This number shattered USDA’s already ambitious goal of raising 500,000 pounds of food this summer. Accomplishing this goal is a testament to the dedication of USDA employees around the country to feed our neighbors. Whether that is through the department’s 15 different nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans, or from their own generosity, USDA employees are making a big difference during a time of need.
Of USDA’s food collections, nearly 900,000 pounds of the donations were fresh produce collected from the People’s Garden Initiative and gleaning efforts. Gleaning is the act of collecting excess foods from farmers markets, farms, stores, restaurants, gardens and elsewhere and donating it to those in need. Gleaning is an idea written about in the Bible and ensures that our bountiful harvest is used to nourish our nation rather than going to waste.
While Feds Feed Families is over for the summer, the fall harvest season is in full swing. You can continue to make a difference in your community by gleaning excess food from farms, grocery stores, markets, or restaurants in your area. USDA’s Gleaning Toolkit, which can be found on the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership’s webpage, provides easy steps and guidance for how to get started.
USDA employees at the Miami Plant Inspection Station collaborated with employees at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to glean an abundance of mangos from ARS trees in Southern Florida. These resilient mango trees are over 100 years old and their fruits went to two local food banks. Other volunteers gleaned apples from our ARS facility in West Virginia.
These unique stories demonstrate the spirit of giving that provides food to so many this summer and continues to be displayed by USDA employees throughout the year. Though everybody may not have a mango tree or orchard in their backyard, we all the capacity to make a difference. If your local grocery store, farmers market, or community garden does not already have a gleaning program, we encourage you to take advantage of this toolkit and start or expand a gleaning program in your community today!