The men and women who deliver mail on a daily basis are used to leaving letters and packages, but this weekend they will also be picking up food items to help support the hungry.
"The Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski Post Offices will all be participating," said Linda Swarner, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. The Sterling Post Office also has a collection tub on the counter for canned-food donations.
The event will be the 17th annual National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) National Food Drive to "Stamp Out Hunger," the largest one-day food drive in the nation.
Typically the way the event works is on the second Saturday in May, letter carriers collect non-perishable donations from homes as they deliver mail along their postal routes.
The drive is held in more than 10,000 cities and towns, across all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. In 2008, carriers collected a record 73.1 million pounds of food, of which 683 pounds were collected locally.
Swarner said she is hoping for even more generosity from the local community this year.
"I'd like to get at least 2,000 pounds, but whatever we get will make a dent in providing for hungry people," she said.
NALC President William H. Young said as successful as the food drive has been in the past, it simply must be even better this year.
"Millions and millions of families are suffering - struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table," Young said. "More than ever food banks, pantries and shelters need our help this year. As families count on them for support, they're counting on us and we must not back off on our commitment."
Young added that donations are particularly critical at this time of year, since most school lunch programs will soon be suspended for the summer months and millions of children must find alternate sources of nutrition.
"Central Kenai Peninsula residents may leave their nonperishable food items at their cluster box or mailbox on Saturday, or bring it to their local post office lobby," Swarner said.
As to what specific items the food bank needs, Swarner said protein foods are the most sought after items.
"We could use peanut butter because we go through a lot. We could also use canned meats, but we cannot accept home-canned meat for distribution to our clients. We could also use dried beans and rice, and fruits," she said,
Over 125 million postcards, sponsored by the Campbell Soup Company and the U.S. Postal Service's Priority Mail, have been mailed to postal customers to remind them of the event.
For more information on the food drive, contact the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at 262-3111.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at email@example.com.
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