Mail carriers to hold annual food drive
By Angie Landsverk
The National Association of Letter Carriers is holding the Stamp Out Hunger food drive on Saturday, May 13.
Post offices throughout the area are participating to benefit their local food pantries.
“We’re getting close to 10,000,” Howard Pope said of how many pounds of food are donated locally during this food drive.
Pope, a letter carrier for Waupaca’s Post Office, said more than 9,800 pounds of food were collected here in 2016.
During each of the last three years, the amount of food donated was between 9,000 and 10,000 pounds.
Kathy Jenner is the volunteer operations manager at the Waupaca Area Food Pantry, and she also noticed the increase in donations.
“The last three years – especially last year – it took three weeks to sort through everything,” she said.
Prior to that, it took volunteers three to four days to sort the food donations, Jenner said.
Over the last three years, the local food drive collected a total of more than 28,000 pounds of food.
“We’ve been hitting record amounts,” Pope said.
He attributes the increase in donations to signage, a media campaign and sponsorships.
This is the fourth year local businesses are being sponsors.
Pope said their sponsorships help pay for the cost of the blue bags distributed to area households.
Before he began seeking sponsors for the bags, the local food drive averaged between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds of food donations annually.
Other businesses provide in-kind donations like the use of scales or trucks on the day of the food drive.
Signage helps remind people of the campaign.
Pope says the U.S. Postal Service has the infrastructure in place to make the food drive a success.
Last year, 80.1 million pounds of food were collected nationally.
That compared to 71 million pounds of food in 2015.
Since 1992, more than 1.5 billion pounds of food have been collected through the Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
This year marks the 25th consecutive year for the national food drive, and in the Waupaca area, residents can expect to see the blue bags distributed to their homes within the week.
On May 13, residents are asked to place their donations of non-perishable food items in the blue bags and place them in or near their mailboxes by 8 a.m.
Letter carriers and volunteers pick up the donations throughout the day.
Area residents are reminded to not donate items in glass containers and to also check for expiration dates before donating food items.
“If you’re going to be out of town, we’ll take it early, or we’ll take it late,” Jenner said. “We will keep a tally of what we receive early or late for this food drive.”
Pope said there will be a bin in the lobby of the post office for those who want to drop off food items there.
Some businesses will also serve as collection sites for this food drive.
Jenner said Waupaca’s food pantry is doing OK in regard to food donations.
“The first quarter of every year our numbers always go down,” she said.
If school is closed, the pantry is closed.
On average, the pantry serves 200 families per month.
It serves families who live in the Waupaca School District.
During the second quarter of the year, the number of families visiting it begins to increase, she said.
That continues in the summer, when free breakfast and lunch at school are not as available, Jenner said.
The increase in clients takes place at a time when the pantry sees a decrease in donations.
The decrease is due to school not being in session and people being on vacation.
Pope said there is a need for food drives throughout the country.
One in six Americans is food insecure, and one in six children live in a food insecure household, he said.
A total of 5.4 million people age 60 and over choose between paying rent, utilities or having enough nutritious food, Pope said.
He said one in seven Americans lives at or below the poverty level, which for a family of four is $24,600.
“Americans waste 60 million tons of food annually,” Pope said.
Pope and Jenner ask area residents to also consider donating items they do not intend to use anytime soon.
Jenner also said, “A lot of times if I have a coupon for buy one, get one free, I will buy two and donate one to the pantry.”
Waupaca’s food pantry is not lacking items in one particular area right now.
“But you can never go wrong with soup and crackers,” she said.
With summer approaching, Jenner also likes to highlight the need for condiments like pickles, mustard, ketchup, spices and barbecue sauce this time of the year.
In addition, the pantry always appreciates donations of flour, sugar, canned vegetables, canned fruits, peanut butter, jam, jelly, pancake mix and syrup.
“When we do have an abundance of certain items, we adjust the numbers up and down for what people may receive,” Jenner said. “We’re fortunate to have 13 freezers. I think only one is empty now. Typically, we get a grant from Feeding America to stock the shelves. We use that to get meat.”
She said the Stamp Out Hunger food drive gets the pantry through the summer.
Pope said in addition to people donating food, there “are always folks who want to help out in more than one way. Many give monetary donations as well.”
Jenner said monetary donations allow them to purchase particular items when the pantry is running short of them.
The pantry also appreciates donations of personal hygiene items, such as toilet paper, facial tissue, diapers and toothbrushes.
Jenner said all donations are used in some way.
“If each of the bags that we distribute would have two cans (in them), we would have well over 10,000 pounds,” Pope said. “For any charitable cause, a little bit goes a long way.”