2017 Feds Feed Families at Malmstrom commissary

A commissary teller rings up a customer’s purchase of two Feds Feed Families donation bags June 29, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Malmstrom Commissary acts as a direct link between the donating customers and the local charity for distribution. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Magen M. Reeves)

A commissary teller rings up a customer’s purchase of two Feds Feed Families donation bags June 29, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Malmstrom Commissary acts as a direct link between the donating customers and the local charity for distribution. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Magen M. Reeves)

A commissary customer places a donation into the Feds Feed Families collection box June 29, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Malmstrom Commissary has been participating in the event for the past four years to reach a goal of lending a helping hand to those in need in the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Magen M. Reeves)

A commissary customer places a donation into the Feds Feed Families collection box June 29, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Malmstrom Commissary has been participating in the event for the past four years to reach a goal of lending a helping hand to those in need in the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Magen M. Reeves)

A stand of premade Feds Feed Families donation bags are displayed June 29, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Malmstrom Commissary curated bags for convenient donation; one for food items and one for non-food items, such as toiletries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Magen M. Reeves)

A stand of premade Feds Feed Families donation bags are displayed June 29, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Malmstrom Commissary curated bags for convenient donation; one for food items and one for non-food items, such as toiletries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Magen M. Reeves)

The Feds Feed Families donation collection box is located near the checkout lanes at the Malmstrom Commissary June 29, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. In 2016, the commissary donated 1,863 pounds of items and the 2017 goal is 2,000 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Magen M. Reeves)

The Feds Feed Families donation collection box is located near the checkout lanes at the Malmstrom Commissary June 29, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. In 2016, the commissary donated 1,863 pounds of items and the 2017 goal is 2,000 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Magen M. Reeves)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The Malmstrom Commissary is participating in the Feds Feed Families campaign through Aug. 31.

Feds Feed Families is a nationwide campaign hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the Department of Defense and is designed to supplement the country’s need for donated foods and basic health items.

According to www.usda.gov, millions of Americans live in households that struggle to put food on the table regularly.

The commissary put together two different brown bags this year; one with food items and one with non-food items including toiletries for customers to purchase and donate. These bags are sealed and located near the checkout lanes for a cost of $10 or less.

“Having the two bags already made and readily available makes it easier for customers to quickly pick one up on the way to check out,” said Jerry Contreras, store director. “However, customers of course are not limited to only donating a brown bag. Customers are more than welcome to donate any purchased item within the store.”

Contreras also said commissary representatives are able to collect items not purchased from the store. For example, if an individual wanted to clean out their pantry and donate non-expired items to a local family in need, the commissary will serve as a drop off location.

“One of our employees did that last year and donated hundreds of pounds of stuff she had accumulated through sales and bargains,” said Contreras. “The commissary donated the items on her behalf because we act as the direct link from Malmstrom to the local charity.”

According to Contreras, the curated bagged items were carefully considered and had input from the charity.

“The focus is to have items that are in high demand,” said Contreras. “Things like shampoo, toilet paper and peanut butter don’t go bad very quickly which makes those items ideal for donation. This program benefits and helps the folks who are in immediate need in the local community.”

“It’s a very worthwhile program especially when I go down to the charity to help sort through items and I get to see little kids happy and benefiting from the donation,” he continued.

The Malmstrom Commissary has been actively participating in the program for the last four years.

“In 2016, the commissary donated 1,863 pounds of food and non-food items to the local food bank,” said Contreras. “Our goal for 2017 is 2,000 pounds.”

To date, the commissary has collected 290 pounds of donated goods to be given to a local charity agency.

Feds Feed Families is one of just a few ways the Malmstrom Commissary is giving back this year, not just to the local community, but to military families as well.

“We’re making a lot of changes,” said Lindsey Shelton, customer service ambassador. “We are looking to give back as much possible this year. We have even introduced our private label brands to be able to offer an even cheaper price for customers.”

The commissary’s overall goals are partially driven due to 2017 being the 150th anniversary of a modern commissary.

“A modern commissary means both officers and enlisted can shop there,” said Contreras. “On July 1, the commissary will be having a celebration at the store including even more savings and more brown bags will be available for purchase to donate.”

2017 will be the year for customers to shop at the Malmstrom commissary, according to Shelton.

“We strive to provide a higher caliber of products for those who have sacrificed so much,” said Shelton. “We want our customers to feel at home in our store. The military is a family, no matter where someone is stationed. We work really hard to make our customers feel special because we have an understanding for the sacrifices made by the service member and their families.”

This year the donated items will be distributed by the St. Vincent de Paul charity located in downtown Great Falls, Montana.

“The commissary is a unique place,” said Contreras. “Everyone who shops here has something in common. Service members have service in common and their families all sacrifice. A family serves just as much as a military member. And sometimes, we owe something back to those who struggle. Feds Feed Families not only benefits locals in need, it can also help a service member, a military family or a veteran in need and that makes me feel good.”