By Johnny Jackson
The National Association of Letter Carriers will kick off its 18th Annual Nationwide Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, recruiting area residents to make food donations to help support local food pantries.
Letter carriers reportedly collected more than 73 million pounds of food nationwide, during last year's food drive.
On Saturday, those wishing to donate are asked to leave non-perishable food items in a bag near their mailboxes, before their letter carrier arrives, according to Michael Miles, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Atlanta. The food collected during the drive will be delivered to local community food banks and food pantries for distribution.
Mark Brumbalow, a retired postmaster, heads up one such McDonough-based community food bank, which distributes to 203 different non-profit organizations throughout central Georgia, including some in Henry and Clayton counties.
"We reach over 3,000 families every week with the food that we send out from here," said Brumbalow, the executive director of Southern Crescent Resource Ministry, Inc. "Last week, we distributed about 70,000 pounds of food, and we average over 4 million pounds a year."
Brumbalow said the non-profit ministry began in 1994 as a centralized clearing house of food resources for the needy. In recent years, however, the need has increased while donations have begun to dwindle, he said.
"We have a waiting list of churches and organizations that want to participate in our ministry," he said. "And we've seen a decrease in the amount that's been donated."
Brumbalow said the number of non-profit groups on the ministry's waiting list has varied over the past several months, with up to as many as 70 groups requesting food assistance.
"We have about 40 non-profit groups waiting to get into the ministry now," he said. "So, this is a great blessing for people to be able to receive food."
Rhonda Mosley, who has volunteered at the ministry for the past eight years, said she is encouraged each year by the community outpouring for those in need.
"There are always people in need," Mosley said. "I continued doing this, because I just love helping people. It's very satisfying, personally, and everybody has a need somewhere."
All non-perishable food donations will be welcomed to the food drive, said Miles, the Postal Service spokesman, adding that protein-rich foods like canned tuna, salmon, beans and peanut butter are most needed. He said canned fruits and vegetables, whole-grain, low-sugar cereals, macaroni and cheese dinners and 100 percent fruit juice also top the list of most needed items.
Hampton Postmaster Jerry Sparks said residents may participate in the drive by leaving their donated food items beside their mailboxes, or even inside their mailboxes, for carriers to pick up. He said the post office itself will also accept donated food items.
"We become complacent sometimes, and we fail to be grateful for what we have," said Sparks. "We want everybody to dig deep and clear out their pantries, and help out."
Sparks added that the Hampton post office received two crates full of food items during last year's drive. He said the post office hopes to exceed that amount on Saturday.
"Everybody knows that we are in a difficult economic situation right now, and there are a lot of people in our communities suffering," he said. "I think that's the best motive for giving back. If you have plenty of food for your family, you ought to think about that as an opportunity to give to others who don't have what we do."
On the net:
Southern Crescent Food Bank:
U.S. Postal Service: