The National Association of Letter Carriers’ 20th annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, the largest one-day food drive in the nation and largest food drive of the year for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, will roll with the mail on Saturday.
Johnson City letter carrier Randy Hite, president of the local NALC and coordinator of Saturday’s Stamp Out Hunger efforts in Johnson City, Jonesborough and Gray, delivered his first round of letter carrier food drive notices on Monday in the Johnson City Housing Authority’s Memorial Park neighborhood.
While participation in the drive varies from area to area, Hite, who has been delivering mail for 33 years and taken part in each of the previous 19 Stamp Out Hunger food drives, said people in the Memorial Park and Keystone neighborhoods where he delivers daily tend to give in larger numbers.
“People through here really do pretty well. That pleases me because there are a lot of people right here who are in need,” Hite said as he made his way up Dyer Street. “In this day and time with the economy in the condition it is, there are a lot of people who truly depend on places like Second Harvest, at least for supplemental food, to feed their families. It could happen to any of us. ... We could all be in need.”
Hite urged all postal customers in the greater Johnson City area to watch for a Stamp Out Hunger postcard with details about Saturday’s food drive to arrive in their mailbox by Friday. The letter carriers’ request is as simple as the drive itself: “Collect a bag of nonperishable food items. Place the bag by your mailbox on Saturday for a letter carrier to deliver to a local food bank or pantry.”
Rhonda Chafin, executive director of the regional Second Harvest food bank in Gray, said the letter carriers’ food drive is historically the largest food drive of the year for the food bank and last year brought in more than 72,000 pounds of food that was distributed to people served by 200 pantries and nonprofit feeding programs throughout the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee.
This year those pantries and hunger relief agencies are providing food to about 38,000 people every month compared to 36,000 per month in 2011 while at the same time cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture food commodities program have reduced the regional food bank’s supplies by about a million pounds of food compared to last year. “Demands are high and supplies are low compared to what they were last year,” Chafin said. “We really need donations to meet the demand and we really encourage everyone to participate in this (drive) if they can.”
It’s the simplicity of the letter carriers’ food drive that Chafin believes makes it a success. And with the attention and many new supporters the food bank received during last month’s Walmart Facebook race for $1 million, she thinks the drive may be more generously received this year than ever.
“There is an urgent need for food donations right now and the letter carriers make it so easy,” Chafin said. “You just pull a few items out of the pantry, put it in a bag and walk outside and hang it on your mailbox.
“We do want to ask everyone who voted for us to win that million last month to do this. And if everyone who voted will donate, we’ll get that million another way.”
For more information about the letter carriers’ food drive, visit www.helpstampouthunger.com or call the food bank at 477-4053.