On May 13, mail carriers and volunteers across the country will participate in the 25th annual Letter Carriers’ “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive.
In Snohomish County, the event takes place due to the group effort of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Volunteers of America Western Washington, United Way of Snohomish County, Branch 791, and the Snohomish County Labor Council.
Bags will be delivered to Snohomish County mailboxes during the week of May 8. Residents who wish to participate can fill their bags with non-perishable food items and leave them next to their mailboxes on the morning of May 13 for their mail carriers to pick up.
Last year, the drive amassed 236,153 pounds of food and provided over 196,000 meals.
According to Qaitlin Peterson, the development manager of Volunteers of America Western Washington, the organizations involved are hoping to accumulate over 250,000 pounds of food this year.
The food collected does not just provide immediate support to those in need. In fact, those thousands of pounds of food actually add up to about six months of food assistance for individuals and families across the county.
Food donations during the summer months can be extremely low as compared with the rest of the year, Peterson said. The Letter Carriers’ Food Drive is one of the best ways to meet local food needs during that downturn.
“It really is crucial to being able to feed people during the summer,” Peterson said. “Without it we wouldn’t have the resources.”
After the drive ends, Volunteers of America Western Washington works with an Everett company called Hogland Trucking to gather and store the food. The food is then distributed to local food banks depending on need.
According to a 2011 report done by the Washington State Anti-Hunger Coalition, about 14 percent of households in Snohomish County have experienced food insecurity.
About ten percent have experienced food hardship, meaning that there have been times when they did not have enough money to feed themselves or their families. This drive helps to combat those statistics.
Collecting donation bags on top of their regular mail delivery duties can make the food drive a difficult day for the letter carriers involved, said Peterson. Depending on the amount of donated material, volunteers sometimes drive behind the postal trucks to help carry the load.
“It is an effort,” Peterson said. “Many of them, like many of us, know the need out there. A lot of them take that to heart and that’s why they participate.”
The National Association of Letter Carriers reports that nationwide, almost 49 million Americans are unsure where their next meal will come from. That’s one out of every six people.
“Our area is pretty lucky because we do have all of these partners that have come together and decided to make this a priority,” Peterson said.
For more information about the food drive on May 13, visit nalc.org. For more information about Volunteers of America Western Washington, visit voaww.org.