Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive benefits local organizations

By HASKEL BURNS,

In the 24 years since the United States Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers teamed up for the annual Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive, more than 1 billion pounds of food have been collected for food pantries across the country.

The tradition continues on May 12, when food collected in Petal and Hattiesburg will benefit two local organizations: the Petal Children’s Task Force and Christian Services.

Brown bags will be delivered to every postal address on May 10, along with a reminder to donate. To participate, simply fill the bag with non-perishable food items – such as canned goods, peanut butter and cereal – and leave the bag by the mailbox before the mail carrier arrives on May 12.

Mail carriers will then pick up the packages and deliver them to the proper location. Donations in Petal will go to the food pantry at the Petal Children’s Task Force, while food collected in Hattiesburg will be used by Christian Services.

“Last year was phenomenal, because of the brown bags,” said Demaris Lee, director of the Petal Children’s Task Force. “Because people forget, but that brown bag reminds them ‘I’ve got to do this,’ so they will go do it.

“If we didn’t have those brown bags, we’d be like me – I’d think, ‘Okay, I’m going to put it out there,’ and then I’d forget about it. Last year we did real good at the food drive because of the brown bags.”

Jim Prout, executive director at Christian Services, said non-perishable items are particularly important to the organization.

“Those are so valuable to us,” he said. “(We’re) making and serving over 700 plates a day, and then we’ve also got a benevolence food ministry where we’re making boxes and giving them out to people in need also.

“And so those kind of (non-perishable) items are gold. They’re wonderful.”

Prout said because of the convenience of this particular type of food drive, Stamp Out Hunger gives everyone a chance to contribute.

“This is such a huge opportunity, because no one ever has to leave their home,” he said. “That’s what I think is so cool about it.

“Food drives are wonderful, because it’s good awareness and it’s a good time for everybody to get together. But with the postal food drive, you don’t have to leave home to help somebody else.”

Feeding America, AFL-CIO, United Way, Valassis and Valpak Direct Marketing Systems also are supporting this year’s Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive.