Mail carriers to collect food May 14
By Angie Landsverk
The largest single-day food drive is about to take place throughout the country.
The National Association of Letter Carriers is holding the Stamp Out Hunger food drive on Saturday, May 14.
Post offices throughout the area are participating to benefit their local food pantries.
“Last year, over 71 million pounds of food was collected nationally,” said Howard Pope, a letter carrier for Waupaca’s Post Office.
This marks the 24th consecutive year for the national food drive, and in the Waupaca area, residents can expect to see blue bags distributed to their homes between May 7-13.
On May 14, residents are asked to place their donations of non-perishable food items in the blue bags and place them in or near their mailboxes between 8 and 9 a.m.
“The last two years, we’ve been between the 9,000 and 10,000 pound range for donations,” Pope said of the local food drive. “Our goal this year is if everyone found one more item, that would push us over the goal and break the 10,000 (pound) mark.”
Kathy Jenner is the volunteer operations manager at the Waupaca Area Food Pantry, and she said the food pantry welcomes all donations.
She reminds area residents to not donate items in glass containers and to also check for expiration dates before donating food items.
With summer approaching, Jenner said the pantry is in particular need of condiments, such as ketchup and mustard.
Other current needs are pancake mix, syrup, jam, jelly, soup, crackers and canned fruit.
“Right now, we are well stocked with spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and green beans,” Jenner said. “We need tomato paste, along with cans of tomatoes, whether diced or stewed.”
She also said donations of personal hygiene items, such as toilet paper, full-size bars of soap, feminine products, diapers and razors, are needed at the pantry.
“This is the biggest drive of the year. This is the one we count on to get over the summer hump,” Jenner said.
Donations decline at Waupaca’s pantry when school is not in session and people are on vacation, she explained.
“Working with pantries throughout the country, they let us know what is the best time to have a drive,” Pope said.
Jenner said the donations the pantry receives from the May 14 food drive will get the pantry through mid August.
After that, local food drives continue once again in the schools, and the annual Boy Scout food drive is held in the fall, she said.
Jenner said the Waupaca Area Food Pantry, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, continues to see between 200 and 220 families each month.
“Different months spike, like August and September when it’s back to school time and November and December because of the holidays,” she said. “Half of our clientele are repeat and the other half are able to make things work certain times and then other times, their hours are cut at work.”
Jenner noted several trends the local pantry is seeing.
“One thing we have noticed is our seniors probably make up about 15 percent (of the clientele),” she said. “The number of children has actually gone down. We’re not sure what to attribute that to. We’re wondering if it’s the maturity and longevity of the backpack program, which has really taken hold.”
Jenner said the number of children being served has dropped from 30 percent to 24 percent of the total.
Jenner said when they see their numbers drop or plateau, it can be indicators the economy is turning around.
“Everybody that comes here has to make a hard choice about whether they buy school supplies or clothes for their kids or buy medication or put gas in their car,” she said. “A lot of people have pride. If they can get by, they will. Sometimes, people come in and say they haven’t been here in six months but their hours got cut at work or maybe a child is back to live with them.”
The community is generous, she said.
“Our donations this past year were phenomenal,” Jenner said. “The community garden in the summer and local farm markets also support the pantry.”
She said the pantry accepts donations of eggs from local farmers and said those who garden may plant a row specifically for the pantry.
Pope said there are between 20 and 30 sponsors for Waupaca’s food drive.
Those sponsors help cover the costs of the blue bags distributed for the event. Some sponsors provide equipment or volunteers, he said.
Some local businesses are also serving as collection sites for the food drive, and food donations are also accepted at the post office during lobby hours.