The Rapidian

Letter carriers get ready to Stamp Out Hunger this Saturday

The 22nd Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive mobilizes Grand Rapids residents in the fight against hunger.
Food Bank staff members and volunteers sort donations at the Kentwood Post Office branch in 2013.

Food Bank staff members and volunteers sort donations at the Kentwood Post Office branch in 2013. /Feeding America West Michigan

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Continuing a family tradition, Jeff Keane, son of cartoonist Bil Keane, created the poster for Stamp Out Hunger 2014.

Continuing a family tradition, Jeff Keane, son of cartoonist Bil Keane, created the poster for Stamp Out Hunger 2014. /National Association of Letter Carriers

On Saturday, the Grand Rapids letter carriers will join postal workers around the country in collecting food for their neighbors in need. Last year’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive brought in more than 150,000 pounds of food for Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank.

Feeding America West Michigan has been receiving food from the letter carriers for two decades, and while the Food Bank is mobilizing dozens of staff members and volunteers to help out on May 10, the letter carriers are shouldering the bulk of the work. Each carrier working that day will gather non-perishable foods from the houses on their routes and haul them back to their Post Office branches, many of them making two or three additional trips to ensure that every box of pasta and can of soup is collected.

Letter carrier Larry Ames, a 20-year veteran of the food drive, said carriers develop relationships with their customers, rich and poor, and come to identify with their struggles personally.

“We’ve done things like save lives and deliver babies,” Ames said, “so a food drive is easy in comparison.”

“The Letter Carriers Food Drive has got to be one of the easiest ways to get involved in the community. What could be easier than going to your pantry, picking out some cereal and canned goods and leaving it on your porch one day a year?”

“The donations we receive keep our food pantries stocked for months afterward,” said Ken Estelle, CEO of Feeding America West Michigan. “In terms of getting the entire city to focus on hunger and in making a concrete difference in the lives of those in need, no one can even come close to the letter carriers’ impact.”

In 2013, Feeding America West Michigan distributed a total of 25.6 million pounds of food, a record for the organization. Demand for its services has not decreased so far this year. “We can use the help now more than ever,” Estelle said.

Every Grand Rapids resident with an address can get involved by leaving a bag of non-perishable food by the mailbox the morning of Saturday, May 10. Canned vegetables and foods high in protein like soup and peanut butter are especially desirable.

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