What do bratwurst and USDA have in common? The ability to mobilize community members to donate to Feds Feed Families!
On sizzling hot summer days in Madison, Wisconsin, employees of the Agricultural Research Service’s Dairy Forage Research Center fire up their grills with hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers, and of course, brats (short for bratwurst, a German sausage that is especially popular in Wisconsin) to incentivize donors to keep giving to feed hungry families.
This creative idea was sparked by Jane Marita, a plant molecular geneticist, who wanted to add some energy and excitement to the 2011 Feds Feed Families Campaign. By offering her co-workers free brats in exchange for food pantry donations, Marita noticed a marked increase in donations which resulted in a tremendous total of 2,800 pounds of food collected by the research center in 2011.
The cookouts take place every other week, and the meat and condiments for the cookouts are all donated by a generous USDA employee. Non-perishable food donations roll in as USDA employees and community members gladly follow their noses to help end hunger.
While Feds Feed Families technically only runs during the summer months, the group continued the campaign during the icy cold winters of Wisconsin to provide an incentive for employees to continue donating to pantries across the area all year round.
“The food pantry demand is greater than ever. The need doesn’t go away when the campaign ends,” Jane explained.
The Feds Feed Families Food Drive is helping to create awareness across the country of the need for food donations in many communities, especially during the summer months when pantries experience an increase in need and a decrease in donations. The results can be staggering—Jane and her group have already collected nearly one ton of food during the first month of the food drive! As Jane exclaims, “We have a great group of people here who love to participate, are great at donating food, and hopefully look forward to the smell of brats on cookout days.”
Although altruism is certainly a reward unto itself, being fed delicious grilled goods for feeding families is not too bad either!