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Commissaries partner with food banks

FORT LEE, Va. (AFNS) -- The Defense Commissary Agency has established a formal process covering diversion of unsellable but edible food to local food banks.

The program now involves 110 stateside commissaries that will divert qualifying food to 77 food banks approved by the Defense Department, but both numbers will continue to rise.

"During fiscal year 2013, DeCA donated 638,582 pounds," said Randy Eller, the deputy director of DeCA's logistics division.

"Already in fiscal 2014, we have donated more than 1 million pounds, so our donations this year could approach 1.5 million pounds," he continued. "This may sound like a lot, and the food banks are certainly grateful, but edible, unsellable product amounts to less than 1 percent of what we sell worldwide. We strive for as little loss as possible to remain efficient and effective."

Following the government shutdown in 2013, DeCA and government officials recognized the need for a formal program for diverting unsellable but wholesome food.

Once stateside commissaries returned to normal operations after the shutdown, which was from Oct. 2 to 6, DeCA received a one-time exception from the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness to authorize local food banks to receive food donations.

With the exception, DeCA gave approximately $250,339 in grocery, meat and produce merchandise to 72 food banks throughout the U.S., preventing entry into the waste stream. Turning that one-time project into an ongoing program involved nearly six months of work. DeCA headquarters staff contacted all U.S. commissaries and established procedures to gain approval for participating food banks.

The system differs from the annual Feds Feed Families campaign, which takes place June through August. With Feds Feed Families, commissaries serve as collection points for their installations, and all donations come from DeCA customers.
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