Stamp Out Hunger, give food to Hopelink with letter carriers' food drive
By DARON ANDERSON
Kirkland Reporter UW News Lab
April 25, 2012 · Updated 1:20 PM
With 16 percent of Americans at risk of hunger each day, members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) hope their annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive will help lower the number of individuals who face malnutrition in the United States. May 12 will mark the event’s 20th anniversary.
Brooks Bennett, a letter carrier who has worked in Bothell since 1975, has participated in the food drive since its inception. He said mail carriers have a charitable history because the nature of their work connects them with communities.
“We know that people need help from time to time and this is an easy thing for us to do,” Bennett said. “It’s one day of intense involvement and additional labor, but the feedback we get from people who benefit from the food and customers who provide food is very appreciative. And appreciation goes a long way in a volunteer effort.”
According to the Stamp Out Hunger website, the drive is the nation’s largest one-day food collection occasion. After beginning in the 1982, the NALC drive grew nationwide in 1992. Each year, letter carriers across America collect donations that help stock local food banks for spring and summer.
Last year, letter carriers across the nation collected 70.2 million pounds of food, the website stated.
Rick Horner, former president of NALC Branch 79 in Seattle, lives in Kirkland and has participated in the drive since it launched.
“To hear stories of children and families going hungry is just unthinkable to me,” he wrote in an email.
According to Horner, volunteer food-drive committees at each postal service branch begin preparing for the event in the fall. Teams organize the drive with members from local organizations such as Food Lifeline, a nonprofit food-distribution agency that caters to low-income individuals in Western Washington.
Bennett is a member of his branch’s committee. He said it is useful to have a coordinating agency like Food Lifeline to help promote the event and store and distribute collected food.
Horner wrote that the U.S. Postal Service also plays a large role by providing postage for reminder cards and donation bags. He credits the food drive’s success to its many partners and the event’s consistency.
“It is at the same time each year (the second Saturday in May),” Horner wrote. “It is also relatively easy to put a bag out in the morning and have your letter carrier pick it up.”
The drive benefits local organizations, including Hopelink’s Kirkland and Northshore food-bank and emergency services center. Scott Milne, Hopelink food-program manager, said the group received 134,459 pounds of food from the 2011 drive.
This year he said he hopes there are more donations.
“We saw a little bit of a low last year,” Milne said, adding that this food drive is Hopelink’s largest donation.
Since 1971, the Hopelink foundation has served homeless and low-income families, including individuals with disabilities. From employment-skills training and interpreter services to emergency shelter and food banks, Hopelink’s mission is to help low-income individuals change their lives by providing essential services, according to its website.
Last month Hopelink’s food bank served 3,008 households and 10,809 individuals, Milne said. That includes households in Kirkland, Bothell, Bellevue and Redmond.
Although the Stamp Out Hunger drive collects mostly food, Milne said cash donations are sometimes given as well.
“Money is really nice because when we do have a shortage we can utilize these funds to purchase items that we’re low on,” he said.
Mark calendars for May 12
Milne said he is thankful for the support of Kirkland residents.
“It’s an amazing community as far as their willingness to support the organization,” he said.
Daron Anderson is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.