Letter carriers in Lee and Collier counties are gearing up for the 20th annual national letter carrier food drive. The food drive will be held on Saturday, May 12, the country's largest single-day drive to help needy families fight hunger in America.. With the increased need for food and related supplies in the two counties, the "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive is especially important.
This is the one day when letter carriers collect non-perishable food that has been left by mailboxes. Food collected in Lee County goes to the Harry Chapin Food Bank and several other food banks; in Collier County, food goes to Collier Harvest. All food collected will be distributed to participating agencies at no cost.
According to the Agriculture Department, in 2009 the number of Americans living in so-called "food insecure" homes topped 50 million. Of those, 17.2 million are children. The drive has become so successful over the years in more than 10,000 cities and towns that it is now part of the fabric of fighting hunger in America. Food banks literally circle the second Saturday in May on their calendars, knowing that carriers will again fill their shelves - shelves that, by then, will be depleted of holiday-time donations. The national drive began with a pilot program in 1991.
Northerners who are returning home prior to May 12 may drop off their contributions at any Post Office; the items will be saved and added to the May 12 contributions. Businesses can set up collection boxes for employees and customers who may not be able to leave food by their mailboxes on May 12. Virtually any kind of food may be donated in unopened, nonbreakable containers. Items especially in need are peanut butter, tuna, rice, beans, and canned meats, fruits, vegetables, and soups.
Volunteers are needed to assist letter carriers with their pickups on May 12. Volunteers collecting food on the street will receive a free t-shirt featuring the Bill Keane Family Circus artwork. Contact Debi Mitchell in Lee, 573-9638, or Jesse Costin in Collier, 643-4716. Volunteers are needed to assist with preliminary food sorting on May 12. Contact Bedzaida Bryen at Harry Chapin Food Bank in Lee County, 334-7007; Collier Harvest at 455-3663; or Kim Berghs at the United Way, 433-1000, x260.
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. To schedule a presentation for your community, club or group on how the Postal Service brings the Post Office to your home or office computer, call 239-573-9638.
Debra Mitchell is the postmaster for Cape Coral and Fort Myers.