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Letter carriers hope to be loaded down for food drive

Annual event makes difference for hungry families through summer

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
2 Photos
Letter carrier Jeff Lovell picks up food donations along his route in Vancouver during last year's National Association of Letter Carriers' Food Drive. The drive is always held on the second Saturday in May.
Letter carrier Jeff Lovell picks up food donations along his route in Vancouver during last year's National Association of Letter Carriers' Food Drive. The drive is always held on the second Saturday in May. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

James Fitzgerald, director of operations at the Clark County Food Bank, would like to see 150,000 pounds of food collected locally during Saturday’s National Association of Letter Carriers’ Food Drive. Retired letter carrier Don Young has loftier goals: 200,000 pounds of food.

“That’s been my goal for a long time,” said Young, who’s been coordinating the annual food drive for years.

When the economy was better, letter carriers and volunteers gathered about 165,000 pounds of food, Young said. Last year 137,957 pounds was collected, a marked improvement from drives held during the recession.

Young is most concerned with children who have come to rely on subsidized lunches at school and who will soon — when school lets out for the summer — be more reliant on food from pantries. About 25,000 children in Clark County’s two largest school districts receive free or reduced-price lunches, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. In Evergreen schools, 47 percent of students are eligible; in Vancouver schools, it’s 52 percent.

The nonprofit group Feeding America estimated that in 2014 there were 61,890 food insecure people in Clark County.

Did you know?

 Since its inception in 1992, the nationwide Letter Carriers’ Food Drive has collected 1.4 billion pounds of food.

 It’s the largest one-day food drive in the country and the second-largest in Clark County.

 Nationally, about 175,000 letter carriers in 10,000 cities participate, including 240 in Clark County.

• For more information on the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Food Drive:

The Letter Carriers Food Drive is the second-largest local food drive, behind December’s Walk & Knock. By now, the donations from that drive are pretty much all consumed, Fitzgerald said. In general, the food bank isn’t seeing as many donations of nonperishable foods. There’s been a bigger emphasis on fresh food, especially produce.

Local grocery store food recovery program Fresh Alliance recently added Safeway to its roster in January and the growing number of Wal-Marts in Clark County has also increased the number of stores donating perishable foods, such as meat, dairy products and bread. The food bank also kicked off Food Bank Fresh, a program where people can get produce at pop-up food stands during the warmer months.

But, Fitzgerald said, a family can’t make a meal with just produce. Shelf-stable products collected at food drives fill out food boxes and make it easier to put together a substantial, healthful meal.

Yellow plastic bags were distributed in mailboxes this weekend with instructions on how to participate in the Letter Carriers Food Drive, along with a list of the most wanted foods, such as peanut butter, canned tuna, canned fruits and vegetables, and chili.

“We’re hoping that our community will come together and feed the hungry,” Young said.

Locally, 240 letter carriers participate in the Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, always held on the second Saturday in May. However, Young said, people can put out donation bags any day this week (preferably before 9 a.m. when most letter carriers start their routes). People can use their own bags or boxes. Just be sure to put them out by the mailbox where they can be easily spotted. If your bag gets missed, take it to any post office or place it by the mailbox next week. Last year, a couple thousand pounds of food trickled in the day after the food drive.

Young could use more volunteers to help drive around picking up donations and bringing them to local post offices. He said it should be a quick and easy volunteer shift. Volunteers are needed primarily in Vancouver, but also in the more rural areas of Clark County. Those interested can call him at 360-904-6972.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith