Mail carriers to carry off food Saturday

Effort to collect nutritious items for needy took in 1.4 million pounds regionally in 2011

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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If you set some nonperishable food donations out by your mailbox on Saturday, you won’t just be helping to stamp out hunger in Clark County -- you’ll also be taking part in what’s billed as the largest one-day food drive on the planet.

Since it began in 1993, the National Association of Letter Carriers food drive has collected more than one billion pounds of food. That food goes to local food banks and other facilities that serve the needy in communities all over the nation.

Food that’s collected here in Clark County stays in Clark County; the overall regional effort benefits the Oregon Food Bank Network, based in Portland and a feeder for smaller food pantries all over the region — including the Clark County Food Bank.

Last year’s effort collected more than 1.4 million pounds of food in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

“The need has never been greater,” said Portland Postmaster Shawneen Betha. “As part of the community, our letter carriers see the need and know the impact the economy has had on so many families. The food drive gives everyone a chance to be part of something bigger than anything we could do alone.”

“This critical food drive truly involves the entire community,” said Rachel Bristol, CEO of the Oregon Food Bank Network, which estimates that 260,000 people eat meals from emergency food boxes in Clark County and throughout Oregon every month.

How to participate

• If you haven’t already received one, be on the lookout for a yellow, plastic, degradable food drive bag in your mail.

• Fill the bag (or any sturdy bag) with nutritious, nonperishable food.

• Place it by your mailbox early on Saturday, May 12.

The NALC asks you to choose items that are high in nutrition and low in sugar and fat, such as: peanut butter; canned meats; canned and boxed meals (soup, chili, stew, macaroni and cheese); canned or dried beans and peas; pasta, rice and cereal; canned fruits and 100 percent fruit juice; canned vegetables; cooking oils and boxed baking mixes.

Please don’t include rusty or unlabeled cans; glass, homemade or noncommercial items (including canned or packaged items); open or used items. If you miss your letter carrier’s Saturday visit, drop off your food donation at any post office by Wednesday, May 16.

If you’re interested in volunteering to help out behind the scenes, visit Oregon Food Bank.