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In conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service, letter carriers across the U.S. will be participating in the nation’s largest one-day food drive to “Stamp Out Hunger” on Saturday, May 14.

On that day, letter carriers will pick up donations of nonperishable food as they deliver mail along their postal routes. Items such as juice, jellies and jams, soup, coffee, cereal, canned meats and fish, vegetables, pasta, and pasta sauce will be collected to help families in need in our communities.

For Loaves & Fishes, this is our largest and most critical food drive of the year.

NALC President Fredric V. Rolando has asked each community to make a special effort to increase collection totals.

“The need is very great, with food pantries reporting record numbers of patrons seeking assistance, and it will only get worse as our economy continues to decline,” he said.

Due to the severity and impact of the poor economy, including soaring gas prices, now more than ever food pantries such as Loaves & Fishes are being turned to in record numbers of families whose lives have been turned upside down due to the recession. Prior to this recession, Loaves & Fishes served nearly 425 families per month, distributing nearly two tons of food per week. Those figures have risen dramatically and continue to rise. Over 60 percent of the clients are children, approximately 10 percent are elderly.

Like most food pantries, Loaves & Fishes sees a significant decrease in donations after the winter holidays. This drop-off is particularly troublesome since the hunger problem is usually at its most critical during the summer months, when school breakfast and lunch programs — often the only source of stable nutrition for millions of children — are suspended.

With the commitment of the postmasters and letter carriers throughout our eight postal communities to implement this food drive, combined with the generosity of postal patrons in our area, we will continue to make a significant difference in the lives of many local residents. Hopefully, the food gathered during the Postal Workers’ Food Drive will allow us to fill our shelves and have plenty of food in reserve to sustain us during the “lean” summer months when donations decrease considerably.

We need everyone’s help in order to achieve our 2011 Food Drive goal of collecting more food than ever before because the need is greater than ever before! It’s so easy to make a food donation — just place your food donation of nonperishable food in a bag (waterproof, if it’s raining) or box and leave it at your mailbox on the morning of the May 14 before your letter carrier arrives. Or you can bring your donation directly to your post office. It will be delivered to Loaves & Fishes that same day by a devoted group of volunteers. Please do not include out-of-date items or those in glass containers.

Currently, the greatest need is for: 100 percent juice (32 and 64 ounces), coffee, jam/jelly, peanut butter, tuna, rice, pasta (especially elbow macaroni), hamburger/chicken/tuna helpers, canned meat and fish, diapers (large sizes please), feminine-care products, bar soap, shampoo or conditioner.

We thank you in advance for your response to the great need to provide food and toiletries to those in our communities who need our help now more than ever. Please remember to respond generously with a bag (or two) of groceries left at your mailbox or brought directly to your post office on Saturday morning, May 14.

— Loaves & Fishes and its many volunteers