Food Drive

As summer approaches, local food banks and church shelves normally would be well-stocked, benefiting from the 70 million-plus pounds of food recently received from the Letter Carriers’ annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, held in May for the past 27 years.

The food drive’s timing is key, because winter holiday donations have dwindled from food pantries and homeless shelters, and school meal programs are not available in summer. The coronavirus pandemic, however, forced the postponement of the scheduled May 9 drive for safety reasons—even as the pandemic-related economic shutdown has worsened food insecurity.

To deal with this urgent situation, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) has developed a new plan to address the problem of hunger that affects one in eight Americans, including millions of children, elderly and military veterans.

Starting this week, millions of Americans who normally leave food by their mailbox on the second Saturday in May for letter carriers to collect, as well as the community volunteers who help sort and transport the food, can accomplish the same via different means.

Using the experience, contacts, presence in every zip code in the country and universal network that have made the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive the country’s largest single-day food collection, the NALC reached out to its numerous regional/state food coordinators, who in turn contacted the 1,900 branches in every corner of the country about finding a new approach for the times. The branches then spoke with food banks and pantries in their communities, and identified those that are willing and able to take part in this effort.

The result: a novel donor drive approach to fit the current circumstances. Americans in big cities and suburbs, in small towns and rural areas, can go to a website (nalc.org/food) set up just for this, select a food bank close to them, and donate funds to help the pantry purchase food. This has been set up in a manner that allows every dollar raised to go directly to purchasing food for the hungry.

As always, the food procured will stay in the community to help residents in need. And again, our wonderful national partners—the U.S. Postal Service, United Way Worldwide, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Kellogg Co., National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, CVS Health, Valpak, AFL-CIO and Valassis—will be vital to its success.

This isn’t the normal food drive, of course, but these aren’t normal times. As letter carriers in every neighborhood in the country six and seven days a week, NALC sees the needs and cannot wait while food banks struggle, demand grows and people remain hungry. Once it is safe, the organization will return with its traditional food drive.

For the meantime, there may be a silver lining to this approach born of necessity. Rather than a one-day event, this effort will continue as needed. And, food banks can purchase more food than a resident could buy and donate with the same resources.

To be sure, this approach is different than before. But for individuals and families across the United States able to have a meal because of the generosity of others, the nourishment—and gratitude—will be exactly the same as before.

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