Stamp Out food drive eats away at hunger

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, May 3, 2017

JANESVILLE—Local letter carriers' fight to end hunger starts with what they find near residents' mailboxes Saturday, May 13.

That's the day the National Association of Letter Carriers conducts its 25th annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive.

Letter carriers in more than 1,000 U.S. Postal Service branches nationwide, including those in Rock, Walworth and Green counties, will participate.

Janesville letter carriers Tom Hathaway and co-worker Leah Borowski are leading the local food drives.

During 2016, thousands of volunteers helped letter carriers collect more than 71 million pounds of nonperishable food nationwide, Hathaway said.

Since the drive started in 1993, it has collected 1.5 billion pounds of food, he said.

A total of 43,477 pounds was collected in Janesville during the 2016 food drive—122 pounds more than in 2015. It was divided equally between the food pantries at Everyone Cooperating to Help Others, or ECHO, and the Salvation Army, Hathaway said.

This year, Hathaway and Borowski are coordinating drives in Janesville, Milton, Orfordville, Footville, Edgerton, Delavan, Elkhorn and Brodhead.

Letter carriers are distributing Stamp Out Hunger postcards with details on their routes Wednesday, May 10. Collection bags will be distributed Thursday, May 11.

Hathaway shared eight things to know about this year's food drive.

1. When should I put out the nonperishable food?  “By 7 a.m. the day of the drive by your mail receptacle,” he said.

2. What do you mean by nonperishable food? “Canned goods and cereal,” Hathaway said.

This could include pasta; pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce; rice; canned fruits and vegetables; canned meats such as tuna, chicken and turkey; canned soups; chili; juice; peanut butter; macaroni and cheese; canned or dry beans; healthy, low-sodium, low-sugar items such as oatmeal and other whole grains; and canola or olive oil.

3. Who will pick up the food and when? "Letter carriers, retired letter carriers, volunteers for carriers who have motor routes and members of the local carpenters union for carriers on vacation,” Hathaway said.

4. What should not be donated? “Food items in glass jars are not recommended because they can end up breaking and spill all over,” he said.

5. Where does the food go? “After we take it to the main post office (on Milton Avenue) where it is weighed, then it is divided between the two local food pantries—ECHO and the Salvation Army,” Hathaway said.

6. Can I help besides donating food? “Yes. We have maps for people willing to use their own vehicle and gas to unload trucks of rural and city letter carriers and others who can provide food at the post office for volunteers,” he said.

Those wishing to help should call Hathaway at 608-290-9522.

7. What other helpful tips can you share? “We furnish plastic bags, but they don't have to be used,” he said.

However, in case of rain, letter carriers prefer plastic over brown paper bags.

“The weight of the donations could fall through the bottom, and it makes it more difficult for the letter carriers to pick the donation up,” Hathaway said.

A plastic trash bag or plastic bag with a tie works best, he said.

8. What else do you want readers to know? Those who are uncertain their donations will go to a good cause should know the facts, Hathaway said.

“The ability to acquire nutritionally adequate and safe food is limited or uncertain for one in six Americans, many of whom are in a household with at least one person working,” he said.

Americans who live with hunger include 13 million children and about 5 million seniors older than 60 who live on fixed incomes and are too embarrassed to ask for help, Hathaway said.

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