M. Terry / SFVS

With winter turning into spring, some food banks like the one at the MEND building in Pacoima have begun to empty as the large donations given during the Christmas holidays are used up.

Now MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity) and other assistance organizations are getting the support needed to restock supplies for the spring and summer.

US Postal Service workers will be placing paper bags in mailboxes this week at homes seeking non-perishable food donations as part of the annual “Stamp Out Hunger” campaign. On Saturday, May 9, letter carriers nationwide will pick up said donations left at mailboxes and transport them to local post offices.

“This will be our 23rd year” of collecting goods, said Jill Lemons, representing the National Association of Letter Carriers at a May 5 press conference held at MEND. “All the food we collect goes to the communities we serve. Letter carriers bring in 70 million pounds of food in one day. It’s the easiest food drive ever.”

Lemons added that post cards would be sent this week to residents notifying them of the food drive, along with the paper bags. If residents miss their letter carrier on May 9, they can also drop off donations at their local post office.

MEND President and CEO Marianne Haver Hill said donations “typically drop off during the summer,” but the financial support from corporate sponsors, including Raph’s Markets and Anthem Blue Cross, will provide the campaign “close to one million bags” left at homes in the Southern California region.

“MEND benefits from about eight to nine different post offices that will contribute their collected goods to our food bank. So we’re very fortunate,” Haver Hill said. “We hope to see an increase of 30 percent as a result from more bags being out there.”

She said there will be volunteers at the post offices to help collect the goods, but more volunteers are needed to sort through collection. “It takes several weeks to go through all that, separating canned vegetables from soups and cereals, that sort of thing,” said Haver Hill, adding that along with their clients the organization also aids some 30 smaller pantries and charities in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.

Last year the organization received about 120,000 pounds of food from the letter carriers. This year MEND is hoping that could increase to at least 150,000 pounds. “It would be the best year ever,” Haver Hill said.

“At Christmas everyone thinks about the poor, and they give us a lot of food. Typically, we give that out in our Christmas baskets for about 1,300 families, and it lasts us until the spring. Now things are getting low, and this will be a good boost to get us through the summer.”

MEND, one of the largest poverty-relief organizations in the Los Angeles region, offers foot, clothing, job training, medical care and educational programs that serve an average of 37,000 and as many as 48,000 poverty-level clients a month.

Also urging public support and participation was award-winning actor and producer Edward James Olmos, a long-time supporter of the food collection project.

“It’s personal to me because my father was a letter carrier,” said Olmos, at the press conference. “All of the participants here are people who have helped me through my life.”

Olmos noted that trying to end hunger is a difficult, but noble task.

“Ending world hunger in our community, the United States — the world — is possible,” he said. “But it takes a concerted effort from all humanity.

“The vested interests that be don’t really succeed by having people live longer and healthier. So we’re fighting an uphill battle. The greed and tenacity of people who have so much and want more continues to grow. So [the rest of us] must push forward and really try to help each other out, because nobody wants [hunger] to succeed.”