By Dawn M Chiossi
Hunger and food insecurity are a huge problem in America and every community out there. Residents of Pompton Lakes are invited to help stamp out hunger by participating in this year’s annual Stamp Out Hunger Day, taking place on May 11th.
Sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers, this is the world’s largest single day food drive in the nation, traditionally held on the second Saturday in May.
This year marks the 27th annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, when letter carriers aspire to help aid with the problem of hunger in their respective communities. Since 1993, this long running event has occurred in more than 10,000 cities and towns. This program is an outgrowth of a tradition of community service from the National Association of Letter Carriers over the last 125 years.
Early on they decided that the ideal time for the food drive should be held in the spring, because most of the food donations are received over the holidays, making the shelves less plentiful in the spring and summer.
Now with the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, helping with hunger is as simple as collecting the mail–something people do every day.
Participation in the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is completely voluntary, that is, not every town participates. According to Roy Jancio, National Association of Letter Carriers Representative 38, he is eager to get the word out about this worthwhile event.
Jancio discloses that Pompton Lakes (and its surrounding towns of Butler, Riverdale and Pompton Plains) has been eagerly participating easily since the food drive began, proving that letter carriers do much more than deliver mail. They are part of people’s lives, a connection to others.
The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is a prime example.
On May 11th, letter carriers will be collecting non-perishable food. To participate, it’s as easy as filling up a bag and just leave out your donation by the mailbox.
It is asked that donors set out bags of food well before your letter carrier’s normal pick up time. The rule of thumb is to have your donation out by your mailbox by 9:00 a.m.
Top requests for non-perishable food include: cereal, pasta, pasta or spaghetti sauce, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meals (such as soups, chili and pasta), 100% juice, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, canned protein, (tuna, chicken, turkey), beans (canned or dry). In addition, donors can also donate healthy, low- sodium, low-sugar items such as beans, oatmeal, other whole grains, and olive or canola oil.
People will even donate baby food. It is asked that people not donate frozen foods, homemade food, or home-canned items. Please do not donate items that are in glass containers or expired. In keeping with food safety procedures and practices, food that is opened, damaged or out of code, will be discarded by the food bank in its sorting practice.
There’s no need to worry about using a special kind of bag to place food in, any will do.
Paper bags tend to hold more food, while plastic tends to guard against wet weather. Pompton Lakes combines the best of both as they will accept brown paper bags with plastic bags under them, so they are easier to carry.
No matter the weather, as the post office motto dictates, donations will be picked up.
“Everyone here is so excited,” Pompton Lakes Letter Carrier Louis Massetti asserts. “The way it works is that about a week before the drive, we will send a card out through the mail and then people will set out their donations.”
All food goes to the letter carriers’ respective local communities. In Pompton Lakes, donations will go to various locations, including soup kitchens, food banks and St. Mary’s Church. “Anywhere there’s a need for food,” Massetti asserts.
All food donations are tax deductible.
He discloses that the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is so well received that often have 20 to 30 bags of food at any given time.
Every effort is made to pick up every donation, but on the off chance that one donation is missed, there’s no need to worry. Simply contact the local post office or place the donation outside, and it will be picked up on Monday instead. Additionally, Jencio brings up a valid point, residents can still donate food in person, taking it to the food bank or pantry or their respective post offices in person. “In these areas, people don’t always want to leave food out because of animals like raccoons getting to it, or if they won’t be home on May 11th, they can still donate food.
“Here in Pompton Lakes people are so generous,” Massetti prides. “They will even wait for the truck and bring their bags to it. No matter where you are, they will find you.” Their generosity even extends to after the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is over, people are still bringing food to the food bank.”
Although both he and Jancio take into account that recently donations have dwindled due to hard times, they both point to the utter caring of the people involved. “Letter carriers aren’t getting any overtime for this, yet we look forward to Stamp Out Hunger Day every year. People give what they can, and for everyone it’s a wonderful way to give back and make a difference.”
And Jancio agrees, mentioning that his favorite thing being a mail carrier is the personal connection to his customers. they even work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, give out Hero Awards, and even involve the schools in food drives. It is something he wouldn’t have any other way.
“Letter carriers do so much more than deliver mail, we are the connection to the people,” he shares. “We notice our customers, when things are not right, such as when mail piles up. Sometimes we have to call the hospitals or police in an emergency when a customer needs help.”
The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is just one example on helping. “This is a wonderful way for everyone to become part of the community and make a difference, making the world a happier place. Together we can make that happen.”