Last year, letter carriers across the country collected 74.4 million pounds of non-perishables for the nation’s food banks and about 74,000 pounds locally.
This year, they’re hoping to top that this weekend.
The Stamp Out Hunger food drive is the United States’ largest single food collection effort, the National Association of Letter Carriers is proud to say.
On Saturday, mail carriers, while delivering letters and bills, will be looking for something else at your mailbox.
The association asks that customers put non-perishable food items next to their mailboxes to be collected on Saturday. The food is then gathered at central drop points and delivered promptly to nearby food banks, where it will serve the region’s needy.
“It’s not the amount that you give,” association Pennsylvania coordinator Richard Wilson said. “If we just got one can from each person, from each household, we would double our amounts that we get.”
Certainly, donations in excess of one can are welcome, Wilson said.
The United Way, which partners nationwide with the letter carriers’ food drive, reports about 49 million people living in the United States currently are unsure about when they will eat their next meal. That includes 16 million children and 5 million senior citizens.
Back in 1993, the letter carriers learned most food banks start to run dry in May when the surge of donations made around Thanksgiving and Christmas begins to dwindle, Wilson said.
School lets out around the first or second week in June, and many of the children who receive free or subsidized lunches also stand to lose one regular meal a day.
So the association pegged the second Saturday in May as the sweet spot to carry food banks into the next holiday season when charitable giving usually picks up again.
Last year, Pennsylvanians gave 2.3 million pounds of food, and the Wilkes-Barre Post Office reportedly collected 74,000 pounds of that, Wilson said.
Matthew Slivinski, a mailman from the Wilkes-Barre branch, is coordinating the city’s effort. He delivers the daily mail to the Heights section of Wilkes-Barre. Most of his customers know him for his burly beard and tattoos, he said.
“All the credit goes to the customers I see every day,” Slivinski said. “They’re the ones that are making this a possibility.”
Much of the food collected by the Pittston branch goes directly to the city’s Meals on Wheels program and the Salvation Army.
“Meals on wheels say we give them enough food almost for the whole year,” Erica Jemiola, a Pittston branch carrier said. “It’s a great thing, because the carriers are delivering the mail as usual, but the customers just have to leave the food by the mailbox.”