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27th Annual National ‘Stamp Out Hunger’ Food Drive, Saturday, May 11: Local Donations Stay in the High Country

By Sherrie Norris

The 27th annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers, is set for Saturday, May 11, and is expected to once again have a huge impact in the High Country.

Considered the largest one-day event of its kind in the nation, more than 10,000 communities and cities across the country will participate in the food collection effort, in conjunction with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization.

Always held on the second Saturday of May each year, it’s possibly the easiest way ever to help our neighbors who are dealing with food insecurity. And, yes, all food collected in the High Country area will stay in the community.

“This is a huge thing for us and the families we serve,” said Elizabeth Young, executive director of the Hunger and Health Coalition in Boone, where the majority of local donations are delivered.

The timing could not be more perfect, as with the end of the school year at hand, many children who depend on schools for breakfast and lunch might possibly be left without adequate nourishment during the summer months.

According to most recent statistics provided by Young’s office, 25.1 percent of children in the High Country are currently food insecure, which equates to one in four kids who do not know where their next meal will come from “or who go to bed hungry.” In fact, 70 percent of children in our local schools receive free or reduced-price lunches.

Currently, too, Young’s office confirmed that Watauga County is among those counties in Northwestern North Carolina with the third highest poverty rate in the state, at 21.6 percent.

As food and housing costs continue to rise, more and more families — some who have never asked for assistance before — are finding that they just can’t make ends meet and are visiting HHC for help,” Young said. “We are seeing many families, with parents working minimum wage jobs in the service industry, who just can’t make it work without assistance,”

With this year’s goal to raise at least 9,000 pounds of food through the local effort, Young pleads with the community to participate in the food drive, and thanks everyone in advance for their generosity.

Last year’s area collection netted approximately 7,000 pounds of food, Young said. “Because of our caring community, we were able to feed 675 families or about 1,982 people, through the provision of substantial food boxes”

“We are also very grateful to our letter carriers for hosting this food drive and making it all possible,” added Young.

The HHC operates seven food assistance programs for low-income residents in Watauga County, which includes a relatively new program known as “Grow a Row, Share a Row.” It’s another easy way to help put food on the table for our neighbors, Young explained. “We ask our local gardeners to sow, maintain and harvest an extra row of food for our clients who might otherwise not have fresh produce through the summer months. They can either bring the food to us as it is harvested, or we will be happy to come pick it up.”

For more information, call the Hunger and Health Coalition at 828-262-1628.

Helpful tips for Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

On Saturday morning, May 11, simply hang a bag of nonperishable food on your mailbox or take your donation to your local post office.

Recommended items include the following: cereal, pasta, pasta/ spaghetti sauce, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meals (such as soups, chili and pasta), 100% juice, peanut butter, macaroni & cheese, canned protein (tuna, chicken and turkey), beans (canned or dry).

Please do not attempt to donate: frozen food, homemade food or home-canned items, individual baby food products, items that have expired or are in glass containers, anything that is opened, damaged, out of code or does not have the official ingredients included.

Because all food collected during this food drive is given directly to non-profit charity food agencies in the community the food was collected, the donations are tax-deductible.

A spokesperson for the US Post Office in Boone said that local letter carriers and postal employees are happy to help with the food drive, and will work with volunteers to collect the food and deliver it “by the truckloads” to the food pantry at the Hunger and Health Coalition in Boone.

Fighting hunger nationwide

In 2018, according to the event’s website, the 26th annual food drive held on Saturday, May 12, collected 71.6 million pounds of food. The drive marked the 15th consecutive year that the combined efforts of letter carriers, partners and volunteers have resulted in the collection of more than 70 million pounds of food. Since it began, the annual food drive has collected almost 1.671 billion pounds of food.

Those efforts go a long way to help fight hunger, which is estimated to affect about one in six people around the country, including millions of children, senior citizens and military veterans.

The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is held annually on the second Saturday in May in 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.

The nation’s 212,000 letter carriers collect the food donations that are left by the mailboxes and distribute them to local food agencies..

“Every day on our routes, letter carriers see the struggles many people have with providing for their basic needs,” said Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said. “We are honored to be able to contribute to the families and the communities we serve by helping millions of Americans who otherwise would face hunger.” 

Several national partners assisting in this year’s food drive include: the U.S. Postal Service, the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, United Way Worldwide, the AFL-CIO, Valpak and Valassis.                                                              

The 279,000-member National Association of Letter Carriers represents letter carriers across the country employed by the U.S. Postal Service, along with retired letter carriers. Founded by Civil War veterans in 1889, the NALC is among the country’s oldest labor unions.