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'Stamp Out Hunger' food drive set

on April 18, 2014 10:54 AM

Letter carriers are again set to battle hunger.

The annual Letter Carriers “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive — the largest single-day food drive in the nation — will be conducted Saturday, May 10. The drive generates more than 70 million pounds of food every year, and more than 1.3 billion pounds of food for food banks and food pantries in every state and U.S. territory have been collected in the drive’s 21 years of existence.

The Letter Carriers Food Drive supports Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and its member agencies by helping to keep food pantry shelves stocked. It was conceived in 1993 by U.S. Postal Service employees who wanted to help struggling families in the neighborhoods where they deliver mail. It takes place every year on the second Saturday in May, and brings together a powerful coalition of well-known and respected organizations for the worthy cause of feeding Americans who are experiencing hunger and food insecurity. The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), along with the AFL-CIO, AARP, Feeding America, United Way, Campbell’s Soup Co. and the U.S. Postal Service, join forces for this effort, helping to fund the drive, recruit volunteers, organize trucks for collection and delivery and print the 125 million reminder post cards that will soon show up in mailboxes everywhere. In 2013, NALC had its best year ever, collecting 74.6 million pounds of nonperishable food that was delivered to food pantries in the communities where it was collected.

More than 70 million pounds of food has been collected annually for the past 10 years. In the greater Pittsburgh region, every Postal Service branch participates and more than 10,000 pounds of food is delivered to the food bank, with much more going directly to food pantries across the region. Robert Williams, vice president of NALC Branch 84 in southwestern Pennsylvania, says that 225,000 pounds of food were collected in this region last year by 1,500 mail carriers.

“The mail carriers like doing this and view it as a community service,” Williams says. “It’s the only day in which our mail sacks don’t get lighter, but it’s a labor of love.”

The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive asks every household to contribute by placing non-perishable food for donation, preferably in a bag or box, by their mailbox on the morning of May 10. The mail carriers will pick it up and transport it to the food pantries. Volunteers from AARP and other organizations assist with the collecting and delivery. The event, Williams says, is scheduled for May because it’s a time when many people are cleaning out their cupboards. “If you find that there are items you haven’t used, donate them. You don’t have to go out and buy new.”

According to Feeding America, 49 million Americans, including 16 million children, are experiencing hunger and food insecurity. With continuing economic uncertainty and persistent high unemployment, many families depend on food pantries for assistance.

“This is a critical time for food pantries,” says Food Bank CEO Lisa Scales. “Efforts like the Letter Carriers Food Drive truly make a difference for millions who need help, and we appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

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