An annual tradition to stave off starvation is once again upon us.
Here and across the country, the people who bring your mail to your home or business are preparing for their annual Help Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
As they have done for more than 25 years, letter carriers in DeLand and elsewhere will collect canned goods and other nonperishable edibles as they make their appointed rounds Saturday, May 11.
Those food donations will be distributed to people in need of help in getting their daily nutrition. The food drive is an ambitious effort.
“There are 46 [postal] routes and 46 letter carriers [in the DeLand area],” said Betty English, who is one of those letter carriers and the coordinator of the DeLand post office’s part in the national campaign.
After the letter carriers’ trucks return from their routes, English said, there will be more people on hand to unload the food collected.
“There’s going to be a lot of people. Our retirees in the National Association of Retired Letter Carriers will help,” she added. “There will be a Boy Scout troop.”
The groundwork for the food collection has already been laid, as the letter carriers have left special plastic bags in the mailboxes of their postal patrons in the hope those patrons will fill them with food and leave them at their mailboxes on Saturday.
How much food do English and her fellow delivery staffers hope to collect?
“We had 35,000 pounds last year. I am hoping we get the same. If we can get another 35,000 pounds, that would be great.”
Once the donations are brought to the DeLand office, the mail trucks will be unloaded and the total volume will be turned over to a well-known local charity, English said.
“The Neighborhood Center is the only recipient. They do such good work. They really need food. They can give food to the churches if they need it,” she noted.
What food items should postal patrons donate?
“If they would get canned chicken and canned meat, tuna, and pasta and sauce — or just canned green beans or peas,” English said. “Also, peanut butter and jelly.”
“I also bring in a couple of cases of baby food. We need baby food,” she continued. “We also get dog food and pet food.”
If indeed DeLand’s letter carriers do collect 35,000 pounds of food, how long will that quantity last?
“I would say about a month-and-a-half,” Neighborhood Center Director of Operations Waylan Niece replied.
And while the Help Stamp Out Hunger food drive is vital to restocking the charity’s pantry in the spring and summer months, Niece said The Neighborhood Center gives away so much more.
“In 2018, we distributed to the community, West Volusia, over 1.5 million pounds of food,” he added. “Some of that food was grant-funded, and also because of our partnerships with Publix, Save-A-Lot and others. We also like to receive monetary donations. Because of our partnership with Second Harvest, we are able to take one dollar and buy $9 worth of food.”
The Help Stamp Out Hunger food drive has the support of the unions representing postal employees and management.
The food drive began in 1992, and DeLand was one of a few pilot cities for the program, which eventually became a nationwide effort.