The Campbell Soup Company will join forces with the National Association of Letter Carriers for Stamp Out Hunger in the Elizabethton and Carter County area and the rest of the nation on Saturday, May 12.
Now in its 20th year, the annual food drive has grown from a regional to a national effort that provides assistance to the millions of Americans struggling to put food on the table.
The Stamp Out Hunger food drive, held on the second Saturday in May, has become the nation’s largest single-day food drive benefitting Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. In 2011, Americans donated 70.2 million pounds of food, which marked the eighth consecutive year that at least 70 million pounds were collected by letter carriers.
Locally, last year’s Stamp Out Hunger drive netted almost 5,000 pounds of food. This year’s drive is being headed by Frank Quintero, Elizabethton letter carrier, who wants to collect even more food this year.
Postcards announcing the Stamp Out Hunger campaign are being delivered this week to homes across the region as a reminder to participate in the drive. To participate in the Stamp Out Hunger food drive in Elizabethton and the surrounding communities, residents are encouraged to leave a sturdy bag containing nonperishable foods, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal next to their mailboxes prior to the time of regular mail delivery on Saturday, May 12. Elizabethton and rural route letter carriers will collect these food donations as they deliver the mail. Also, a spokesman at the Elizabethton Post Office said donations can be dropped off in the lobby at the Elizabethton Post Office. All local food donations will be taken to the Second Harvest Food Bank in Gray.
In turn, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee feeds the hungry by securing food donations and distribution to non-profit agencies such as Hale Community Ministries, ARM of Elizabethton, and Food for the Multitude, which help feed the needy in Carter County.
According to Second Harvest Food Bank, approximately 1 out of every 4 individuals in our region lives in poverty; nearly 1 in 5 individuals suffer from food insecurity; and as many as 2 out of every 5 children suffer from food insecurity.
“We have a lot of people who come every month to get assistance from our food pantry,” said a volunteer at Hale Community Ministries. “The stories are all similar. Food Stamps do not stretch far enough; Social Security checks won’t stretch far enough.”
Hale Community Ministries distributes food four days a week. Much of that food comes from Second Harvest, however, school groups and churches also hold food drives for the organization.
Included in the food bags are staples such as canned goods, rice, peanut butter, cereal, etc.
The story is the same at ARM, which during the month of March shared 523 food boxes to serve 1,133 individuals. Thus far this year, they have distributed 59,486 pounds of Second Harvest food.
Some of the items they received in April from Second Harvest for distribution in the food boxes included frozen chicken, frozen peaches, cans of tomato sauce, green beans, corn, assorted beans, bags of potatoes, Great Northern beans, as well as boxes of pasta, mac-n-cheese dinners, crackers, cookies, chips, cereals and fresh cabbage.
Among their most critical needs are breakfast foods such as cereals, Vienna sausages, canned potted meats, snacks such as fruit “rollups” or raisins, Ziploc bags, toilet paper and diapers sizes 3 and 4.
In addition to Hale Community Ministries, ARM, and Food for the Multitude, which feeds an average of 200 persons per week, Second Harvest also provides food for pantries at First Christian Church, East Side Free Will Baptist Church, Phillippi Baptist Church, Harvest Baptist Church, Unaka Baptist Church, Little Milligan Care and Share and the Roan Mountain Good Samaritan Thrift Store.
In fiscal year 2011, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee distributed over 8 million pounds of food, which was a 13 percent increase over the previous year.
“This summer, we expect the demand for food to increase,” said a spokesman at ARM. “The rise in food and fuel prices, along with children being out of school, will drive more families to local pantries for weekly groceries,” the volunteer said.
The need is great, and it’s so simple to help meet the need. Simply leave a bag of nonperishable food by your mailbox to help neighbors in need. That’s all it takes.