FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- While the downturn in the economy continues to affect millions around the country, needy families in northern New York should know that an annual federal effort, which includes Fort Drum personnel, is extending a helping hand to community members this summer.

The installation recently kicked off the 2011 Feds Feed Families, a national campaign coordinated by the Office of Personnel Management that asks federal employees for donations of nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies and daily hygiene items.

“We are fortunate, very fortunate," said Hal Greer, Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director. "Some of our citizens find themselves in need due to circumstances that they don’t control. Sharing with them is a hallmark of our proud American character.

"It’s time to give as much as we can,” he added.

Food banks around the country are facing severe shortages this summer, making it especially hard for families that rely on school nutrition programs, federal officials say. To mitigate these hardships, dozens of government agencies, from the CIA to the FDA to the EPA, are looking to gather 2 million pounds of food by Aug. 31.

The DoD has set a goal of 733,800 pounds " one pound for every civilian worker.

“We hope people will join us in meeting this challenge to help local families in need," said Laura Oakes, FMWR marketing. "Look for the yellow boxes to make your donation, and make a difference in your community.”

Last year, the summertime campaign skyrocketed past its goal of 1.2 million pounds in donations and accumulated a total of 1.7 million pounds.

For the project, officials have compiled a list of 11 "Most Wanted Items," which includes grains, canned proteins, all-natural juice boxes, low-sodium canned vegetables, multigrain cereals, canned soups, canned fruit in light syrup or its own juices, and hygiene items, such as diapers, deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo.

FMWR's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers is spearheading logistical support for the project by emptying the boxes three times a week, weighing the items and storing them in a warehouse for distribution to the installation chaplain and local food pantries, including the Watertown Urban Mission.

BOSS's president, Brandon Smith, said because he often passes the Watertown Urban Mission and observes dozens of people in line waiting outside for food, he feels honored to participate in the program.

"Personally, I've gone without work," Smith said. "I know how hard it can be to find a job. This (program) is such a good way to help with the economy doing so bad and all this fear about the drought down south and (how that will affect) food production.

"I'm fortunate," he added, "so I'm definitely proud to be able to help out other people who are less fortunate."

The Feds Feed Families program grew out of the United We Serve program, a recent federal campaign that urges Americans to contribute to the nation’s economic recovery by helping their communities.

Fort Drum organizers of the Feds Feed Families initiative will be officially recognized Sept. 1 during a local event sponsored by FMWR and the Northern New York-Fort Drum chapter of the Association of the United States Army.