Letter Carriers launch “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive, look to increase donations

WASHINGTON —With 44 million people in the U.S., including 15 million kids, going to bed hungry every night, the Letter Carriers kicked off their annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive with a ceremony at union headquarters on May 8.

The drive, which depends on voluntary donations of non-perishable food, or cash, or both, helps re-stock pantries, shelters and other sources of free food for those who lack something to eat, said NALC President Brian Renfroe. The shelters “are desperate to meet their needs,” he added.

“Letter Carriers know the struggles that people in their communities face—we see it every day. For more than three decades, we’ve helped to meet their needs, and it’s time to do so again.”

Last year, Letter Carriers collected 43 million pounds of food and spent the Saturday before Mother’s Day—just as they will this May 11—collecting it and redistributing it to food providers whose stocks are running low. The NALC’s drive is the largest one-day food drive in the nation.

That’s especially important in the spring because a key source of free and low-cost meals for kids, the nation’s public schools, are about to adjourn for the summer. For those kids, Renfroe and other speakers said, that hot lunch at school is their only complete and balanced meal, five days a week.

But this year, like last year, the NALC faces a big problem: The 40% drop in donated food over the years of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic put paid to the annual drive for several years. Before the modern-day plague hit, Letter Carriers picked up bags and boxes of food customers left out by their mailboxes. The usual annual total came to around 70 million pounds of food.

During the pandemic, carriers couldn’t collect food due to health restrictions. So NALC sought cash contributions. The dollars came in, but when the pandemic receded and the drive resumed, giving patterns had changed—and have yet to bounce back. “A lot of the food banks are still accepting only money donations,” Renfroe told Press Associates Union News Service after the ceremony.

So the Letter Carriers are trying new ways to excite participation. The ceremony was a start. It included talks from United Food and Commercial Workers President Marc Pallone and Rural Letter Carriers President Don Maston, as well as several corporate partners, notably KellaNova—the rebranded Kellogg’s—and the CVS pharmacy chain.

Pallone pledged a $250,000 cash contribution, too. “As the union representing essential food workers, we witness the impact of hunger every day,” he explained. “There are many times” UFCW checkers see “people come up the food store lines and have to put things back because they don’t have enough money to pay for them.”

NALC drive activists at the event added the union found the traditional post cards in mailboxes just don’t work anymore. So NALC is turning to social media and signed up a nationwide apartment building ownership group to distribute flyers to millions of tenants, among other ideas.

And while the AFL-CIO has been a constant and enthusiastic food drive partner ever since the campaign began more than 30 years ago, the Letter Carriers want to push the rest of the federation to the forefront of aiding the food drive, too.

But the NALC will still take the lead, since there are Letter Carriers in every state, city, town, village and countryside, plus U.S. territories and commonwealths.

“There are few people who know their communities like we do,” Renfroe said. “We see our customers who are struggling—every day.”

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.