Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Letter Carrier's Food Drive

Remember the Saturday in May when people all over the country left nonperishable food by their mailboxes as part of the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive run by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)?  It is said to be "the largest one-day food drive in the nation and probably the world," and it involves many more people in giving than other types of food drives.

This year, the NALC expects total donations collected along postal routes since the drive began 18 years ago to exceed 1 billion pounds.

Do you ever wonder what happens to that food?  It goes to local food banks or pantries to be sorted and then made available to those who need it.  This May, Carolyn helped sort food that came to Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, a food bank in Kalamazoo, MI. 

The letter carriers in the Kalamazoo area had handed out paper sacks to each of the houses on their routes, collected the filled bags on May 8, and brought the food to the Loaves & Fishes warehouse. Over 60,000 pounds of food was collected.  This may sound large, but that total
  • was only about 60% of the total collected in last year's drive.  Perhaps the rainy weather or the poor economy accounted for the drop.
  • is equivalent to only a small portion (a few weeks' supply) of the amount Loaves & Fishes gives out each year.
One benefit of the NALC Food Drive is the wide variety of food collected, which is really appreciated by the food pantry clients.  For example, the usual emergency food distribution system doesn’t normally get beets (or sauerkraut or sardines or salmon or clam chowder) because only a few people like them.  But a few cans of these more unusual items gives someone who likes these items a welcome change from corn, peas, and beans.

At the Loaves & Fishes warehouse, about 7 volunteers (ranging from college age to well past retirement age) checked donated food to make sure it wasn't damaged, leaking, or otherwise unacceptable.  Then they sorted the food into boxes labeled “fruit, “canned meat," “vegetables," “beans," etc.

Over the course of 3 hours, they sorted the food from 4 really big bins, and filled several pallet-loads of boxes!  Nevertheless, there will be many more days of sorting before all of the food from the Letter Carrier’s Food Drive is sorted.  The boxes of categorized food will be sent to food pantries throughout the Kalamazoo area to help fulfill the needs of their clients through the summer months.

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