Letter carriers in Lee and Collier counties need volunteers to carry out a successful "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive on Saturday, May 12. This is the nation's largest single-day drive to help needy families fight hunger in America. As good as the drive has been in the past, we must do even better this year. As the economy has spiraled downward, millions and millions of families are suffering-struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. With the increased need for food and related supplies in the two counties, the "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive is especially important.
Helping Stamp Out Hunger is as easy as checking your mailbox. Just leave a bag of nonperishable food where your letter carrier normally delivers your mail. Your letter carrier or volunteer will then pick up and deliver the food to a local food bank. This is the one day when letter carriers collect the food. 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 in food drives is distributed to participating agencies at no cost.
Food banks are notoriously empty during summer months, having exhausted the supply of donations received from other food drives. Summer donations are even more critical since many children in need no longer have the benefits of their school breakfast and lunch programs. 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.
Individuals who won't be able to participate on 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. Monetary donations payable to Harry Chapin Food Bank are welcomed prior to and on the day of the food drive.
Virtually any kind of nonperishable food may be donated in unopened, nonbreakable containers. Items especially in need are peanut butter, tuna, rice, beans, and canned meats, fruits, vegetables, boxed cereals, and soups.
Volunteers are needed to assist letter carriers with their pickups on May 12. Contact Debi Mitchell in Lee County, 573-9638, or Jesse Costin in Collier County, 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, 239-433-2000, x260.
Debra Mitchell is a spokeswoman for U.S. Postal Service.