Nodaway County residents will have a chance to help their U.S. Postal Service mail carrier make a very special delivery this Saturday during an annual anti-hunger drive focused on helping low-income families and individuals get enough to eat.
Kenny Beattie, who serves as the Maryville union steward for Branch 30 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said this week preparations are well underway for the 21st annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday.
The nationwide initiative was established by the carriers union in 1991. Last year in Nodaway County the effort collected more than 3,200 pounds of non-perishable foodstuffs, which were donated to the Maryville Ministry Center pantry.
Local Postal Service employees have set no specific goal, but hope to exceed last year's collection total, Beattie said.
During the collection, letter carriers are often assisted by family members and post office retirees, who help drive vehicles and pick up non-perishable food items residents set out beside their home mailboxes.
The association used to provide plastic sacks in which people could place donated items, but that is no longer the case. Again this year, donors are being urged to use spare disposable shopping bags and cardboard boxes.
Though the Ministry Center just wrapped up a very successful edition of its annual Feinstein Challenge fundraiser, which brought in about more than $72,000 in cash and in-kind donations, pantry manager Rod Shain said needs remain as summer approaches, bringing with it an end to school lunch programs.
Shain said last week pantry donations are still critical in support of the "Brown Bag" program, which distributes parcels of "child friendly," easily prepared food to families whose children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches during the school year.
Unlike Backpack Buddies, which offers similar parcels for weekend consumption during the fall and winter, Brown Bag provides children from eligible families with enough food for simple meals five days a week.
In order to fill those brown bags, Shain said the center is in need of nutritious, easily prepared fare such as cereal, breakfast bars, SpaghettiOs, peanut butter, jelly, saltine crackers, pudding cups, juice boxes, boxed macaroni-and-cheese and pop-top cans of fruit and applesauce that can be eaten by children while their parents are at work.
High nutrition, high protein foods, such as dried beans and canned meat, are also essential pantry staples.
Even with the influx of cash from the Feinstein drive, most of which will be used to purchase discounted groceries through the Second Harvest Food Bank, summer is still a time when pantry shelves typically begin to grow bare.
One reason the letter carriers hold their drive in mid-May is that donations tend to peak in the fall as the holidays approach but wane with the start of the summer vacation season.
Page 2 of 2 - Beattie said carriers will spend Saturday collecting food along all 12 city and rural Maryville routes. Rural carriers in outlying communities that have their own post offices will collect as well.
Donated food will be brought back to the Maryville Post Office for sorting and boxing before being delivered to the Ministry Center on Saturday afternoon.
"We just feel this is a way to give back to the community," Beattie said. "We enjoy serving our customers, and we want to do something for them. This makes it easy to donate. You don't even have get out. We just take care of it."
The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive went nationwide in 1993 when more than 11 million pounds of foodstuffs were collected. By 2010 that figure had grown to 77.1 million pounds, which pushed the program over the 1 billion pound mark.
Today, the Stamp Out Hunger effort is the United States’ largest single-day food drive.
Event sponsors include the U.S. Postal Service, Campbell Soup, the National Rural Letter Carriers Association and United Way.