By Maria Jose Subiria
Letter carriers with U.S. Postal Service operations in Clayton County will be looking for bagged, non-perishable food items next to residents' mail boxes on Saturday, to assist organizations that help feed the less fortunate.
The National Association of Letter Carriers, the union for the city delivery carriers working for the United States Postal Service, will conduct its 17th annual "Stamp Out Hunger!" food drive May 9. Letter carriers from across the nation will collect food items in more than 10,000 cities and towns, including those in Clayton County.
According to Postal Service officials, this is the nation's largest, single-day food drive, and it has collected more than 900 million pounds of food since 1992, when it was started.
"Last year, we collected 73 million pounds [nationwide,] and over 200,000 pounds in metro Atlanta," said Michael Miles, spokesperson for the Postal Service.
In order to advise members of the community about the food drive, Campbell Soup Company has joined the Postal Service in co-sponsoring the printing of more than 130 million post cards, said Miles.
"We certainly hope to exceed last year's total," he said. "We're expecting 200,000 to 300,000 pounds locally."
Miles is asking postal customers to place their food items in a bag near their mail boxes. Once the carriers gather the food, it will be delivered to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, where volunteers from both the Postal Service and the Food Bank will sort it.
Items that are most needed, according to Miles, are, "things like rice, beans, peanut butter, tuna and dried noodles."
According to Angie Clawson, public relations manager for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, volunteers are dedicated to the food drive, and begin sorting food at 5 p.m., the day it arrives. The event usually lasts until 11 p.m.
Carriers are not granted overtime hours for their assistance. They work their regular shifts, and volunteer their time the rest of the evening, explained Miles.
"A lot of it is Postal Service workers," said Clawson. "They get excited about it, and they're passionate in helping."
Clawson said the Food Bank has 800 partnering agencies in 38 counties in metro Atlanta and north Georgia, to whom the food will be distributed. Some of the Clayton County partnering agencies include: the Clayton County Senior Services Aging Program, the Clayton County Community Services DFCS Pantry, Girls First Inc., and Saint Philip Benizi Catholic Church.
"We rely on the community for donations, and food that we distribute to those in need," said Clawson. "Anything they can provide, every little bit helps. We really rely on outside assistance of the community."