By Aaron Blevins, 5/10/2012
Post Office Looks to Stamp Out Hunger
Since 1994, Branch 24 of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), which covers Los Angeles, has accumulated 7,986,000 pounds of food for area food banks through the Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
This year, the local branch is looking to top 8 million, and it’s calling on the community to leave non-perishable food items in or near their mailboxes on Saturday, when postal workers will pick them up.
“Our goal is to fill every food bank in every community every year,” said Anita Guzik, the branch’s food drive coordinator.
The annual event is held around the country through local branches of the NALC. Locally, it is in its 18th year, though the national initiative, which has accumulated more than 1 billion pounds of food, has been ongoing since 1992.
“We feel it’s great,” Guzik said. “We’re happy to be able to do it.”
Residents are asked to leave a sturdy bag of non-perishable food items, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, cereal, pasta or rice, in or next to their mailbox prior to Saturday’s mail delivery. Renters are asked to put the bag near their mailboxes. Baby food and pet food have also been requested, though residents are encouraged to give what they can.
“We’re not asking everybody for a bushel of food,” Guzik said.
The majority of the local donations will be given to the Los Angeles Regional Food bank and United Way Community Services. Through those organizations, smaller food pantries will be able to fill their shelves, Guzik said.
“The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is extremely grateful to the National Association of Letter Carriers for this annual food drive that benefits many charities around L.A.,” said Michael Flood, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food bank. “In 2011, we received 58,000 pounds of food, the equivalent of 44,600 meals.”
The event is always held on the second Saturday in May, which is about the time pantries begin to run out of donations from the winter holidays. It also help the organizations prepare for the end of school, when low-income families need help feeding children three times per day, said Linda Giordano, community services coordinator for NALC.
“It’s an honor and a privilege [to help],” she said. “It’s the hardest we work all year, but we are proud and happy to do it.”
Giordano said NALC represents 300,000 urban letter carriers, though rural carriers generally participate in Stamp Out Hunger. She said the organization has sent out 80 million postcards and paper bags to notify residents of the food drive.
This year, event sponsor AARP sent bags to areas with large populations of low-income seniors, Giordano said. She said Campbell Soup Company also donated 1 million pounds of its products to the cause.
“Those are great products to give people in need,” Giordano added.
Volunteers are still needed for the event. To sign up, visit www.laborcommunityservicesla.org/NALC_2012_Food_Drive.html.