Notices have been delivered and grocery bags are in the mail for the National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, the largest one-day food drive in the nation and the largest food drive of the year for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.
Set to roll with the mail Saturday, the food drive brought in 132,342 pounds, or more than 65 tons, of food for the regional food bank last year, and donation bags being delivered locally this week are expected to add to the total collected Saturday.
“We’re excited to have the bags,” said Randy Hite, coordinator of the Stamp Out Hunger drive in Johnson City, Jonesborough and Gray. “We expect they will increase our poundage as they have in cities that have had the bags.
“Everyone will get one. They’re stamped, first-class mail. It will make it easier. People won’t have to go searching for a bag.”
Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee, said the simplicity of the drive makes it very easy for everyone to participate by placing a bag of nonperishable food items by their mailbox before the mail runs Saturday. Letter carriers pick up and deliver the donations to the food bank. And the donations they gather this year will help a larger number of people in Northeast Tennessee than ever before.
“There is an urgent need for food donations right now,” Chafin said. “The food bank is providing food to over 39,000 individuals each month, and more donations are needed to ensure the food bank is able to keep up with the demand.”
Hite said that more than 22,000 pounds of donated food was collected along Johnson City’s mail routes last year, and more in the Keystone and Memorial Park neighborhoods than in any other area of town.
He said the two Johnson City Housing Authority communities, where many people are themselves in need, have traditionally shown strong support for the drive, and he expects they will do the same Saturday.
“That’s 11 tons of food just in Johnson City,” Hite said. “It does make for a long, hard day. But it’s worth it to know you’re helping someone.”
Now in its 21st year, the drive generated more than 70 million pounds of food donations for regional food banks across the country last year, bringing the drive’s 20-year total to more than 1.2 billion pounds of food donated.
“It is a very important food drive and the U.S. Postal Service will continue to support the NALC and rural route carriers who participate,” Johnson City Postmaster Maureen Oudt said.
More information about the drive can be found online at www.helpstampouthunger.com. More information about Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee is available at www.netfoodbank.org or may be obtained by calling the food bank at 477-4053.