M. Terry / SFVS

Postal Food Drive

Giving comes easily to many Americans.

Well, yes and no.

People tend to generously donate to local and national charities late in the year, particularly the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods. But less so in the spring and summer months.

Which is why programs like “Stamp Out Hunger,” supported by the National Association of Letter Carriers and US Postal Service, continue to tap into the public conscience for a helping hand to those in need. 

On Saturday, May 12, families across the nation will be asked to leave a bag of nonperishable and/or canned goods by their mailboxes to help replenish stock for food banks in their communities.

Reminders from the post office will be left in mail boxes this week, leading up to Saturday’s pickup. Food chains like Ralph’s Markets will also provide specially designed paper bags for the products. 

This is the 26th year for the food drive, which postal officials say is the “largest one-day drive in the world.” Since the program’s inception more than 1.6 billion pounds of food have been donated.

But the need for donations continues.

“There are 49 million people in this country who don’t get enough food to eat,” US Postal Service spokeswoman said on Tuesday, May 8, during a press conference at the MEND facility in Pacoima. “Twelve million are children, seven million are seniors. This is a small thing we do to give back to our customers. We expect to make pickups from 10,000 cities, towns and communities.”

Calvin Brookins, spokesman for the National Association of Letter Carriers, said, “We invite all people to leave nonperishable goods on Saturday, and it will be taken to local food banks. You can also drop off food items at the Post Office. We’ve been doing this 26 years — we know how to handle it.”

MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity) is one such nonprofit entity that has benefited from the annual food drive. Last year, from June to August, MEND distributed food it collected from the drive to 1,600 people, according to president and CEO Janet Marinaccio.

But organizations like MEND want to remind the public that helping and outreach are not just a seasonal thing.

“The holidays are a natural time when people want to give,” Marinaccio said. “During the summer — I think people just actually get busy with their lives. They’re taking vacations, and don’t really think about donating during those times. That’s why we do the push now. Because not only do we see food donations go down, but also financial donations dip during the summer. That’s common throughout the nonprofit world.

“That’s why each May we ask people to open their hearts and open their pantries, and contribute nonperishable food to the Stamp Out Hunger Drive. It not only allows us to respond it helps insure that we can provide nutritious food options to families in need. Last year we received in excess of 150,000 pounds of food from the Stamp Out drive alone. That’s more than 75 tons of food.”

Decorated actor and producer James Edwards Olmos is a national spokesperson for the “Stamp Out Hunger” campaign and annually appears at MEND the week of the food drive to spread the message. But this year, due to a scheduling conflict, Olmos could not be there on Tuesday.

In his place Tuesday was actress and comedienne Alison Arngrim (“Little House on the Prairie”), this year’s local spokeswoman.

“I was asked 2-3 times before, and I was always out of town; I do stand-up shows every Mother’s Day weekend,” Arngrim said. “This year we got lucky. I flew in from Sacramento last night, and I’m flying out tomorrow and it worked out. They told me ‘Edward James Olmos is editing a film and can’t get here. Can you?’ And I said I could do it.”

Arngrim — who noted that her husband Bob Schoonover and father-in-law were former letter carriers in Akron, Ohio —  often donates time and resources to various social organizations.

“I worked many years with a group called ‘Tuesday’s Child’ in the 1980s and 1990s that help families with children with HIV and AIDs,” she said. “I have volunteered at food banks…and I’ve seen who goes there. It is mostly women and children. These are people with one and sometimes two jobs, but at the end of the night they are coming up short. And they run out of food and need to come to a food bank.

“They just don’t have enough. It’s wrong. We’re a rich country. California has the fifth largest economy in the world — that’s countries, not states. We have the richest country, the richest states, the richest cities, and yet there are people who are not getting enough food. It’s a crime. People working 2-3 jobs and just not making it. I’m so pleased they are doing this [food drive] in the spring and summer.”