Local post offices ready for Saturday's 'Stamp Out Hunger' campaign
Local letter carriers are seeking community support in their effort to “stamp out” hunger.
The 22nd annual Stamp Out Hunger drive is Saturday, with U.S. Postal Service workers serving as the muscle behind the largest one-day food collection in the nation.
The National Association of Letter Carriers started the drive in 1992 to provide assistance to regional pantries that serve Americans struggling with hunger. In 2013, 74.4 million pounds of food were collected, bringing the total to 1.3 billion pounds in 21 years.
“It gets more important every year,” said local coordinator Chuck Jarrell, who retired from the McKeesport Post Office nearly three years ago. “Little by little, funding is being cut and the need is greater. Right now, everything counts.”
It is estimated that one in six Americans is at risk of hunger.
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank data indicates 314,840 people, including 89,250 children, in its 11-county service area are food insecure. Those individuals missed more than 51 million meals in 2011.
With so many local families affected by hunger, Jarrell said letter carriers want to do anything they can to help people in need who they encounter on a daily basis.
“We deliver six days a week,” he said. “We get to know the people. They're part of our extended family in a way. This is a natural way that we can help out.”
Letter carriers and community volunteers from local service organizations will travel mail routes between 9 a.m. and noon to collect.
Carriers from postal Branch 322 will accept donations of nonperishable food while making the 80,000 deliveries on their routes in McKeesport, White Oak, Liberty, Port Vue, Versailles, South Versailles Township, Glassport, Boston, Elizabeth, Irwin, North Huntingdon Township, Belle Vernon, West Newton, Trafford and New Kensington.
“This is a very convenient way for everyone to help those in need,” White Oak resident Eric Badstibner said. “Families can participate, and it's a great opportunity for my boys (Kyle, 4, and Will, 21 months) to see this being done.”
National Association of Letter Carriers president Fredric Rolando hopes the weather will hold out across the country.
“A lot of us have been through a pretty wild winter,” Rolando said. “Springtime has struggled to take hold in many parts of the country, so we've got our fingers crossed that Mother Nature will give us a break.”
The letter carriers' national community membership outreach coordinator Pam Donato said inclement weather is one obstacle she's sure the drive will overcome.
“We've mailed out reminders, we've renewed our relationships with local food banks, and we've got our volunteers ready for a full day of heavy bags and loaded RVs,” Donato said. “And even if the weather doesn't cooperate, we are confident that our generous patrons will step up and give what they can, no matter what.”
With rain in the local forecast for Saturday, Jarrell said provisions have been made for Mon-Yough area residents who fear their donations may be damaged where mailboxes aren't covered by a porch.
Donations can be taken to post offices at 850 Walnut St. in McKeesport and 5727 Smithfield St. in Boston. The Giant Eagle supermarket in Oak Park Mall in White Oak will be a drop-off point.
“We've made it really easy,” Jarrell said. “You can buy items right there and leave them for a donation.”
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.