ENCINITAS — Letter carriers do more than just deliver the mail. For the past 25 years, they’ve been helping to feed the hungry, with the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.
The drive is held on the second Saturday of May, in all 50 states. Yanira Frias
is the food and nutrition program manager for the Community Resource Center in Encinitas. She explained who the collected food benefits: “Food banks, pantries, and shelters,” she said. “Individuals in need. The Food Drive is an effort to raise national awareness about the real, ongoing problem of hunger in every community, using the Postal Service’s delivery network.”
Here’s how it works: community residents receive a brown paper bag in the mail a few days before the event. If you’re interested in participating, simply fill the bag with non-refrigerated foodstuffs, and leave it out by the mailbox. Your letter carrier will collect the bags and bring them to a distribution center. From there, designated food banks will ensure the collected food gets to the hungry in your area. In Encinitas, it’s St. John’s Church and the Community Resource Center.
That’s another aspect of the event — you’re helping the hungry in your own community. Letter Carrier George Ellas said that, although previous years saw collected food going to the San Diego Food Bank, the food collected in Encinitas now stays in Encinitas. “I contacted St. John’s Church and the local Community Resource Center in Encinitas,” he said. “I chose those two because I was familiar with what St. John’s was doing to help the hungry and already knew of the work the Community Resource Center had been doing. They both also supply volunteers to help unload and pack up the food. In addition, I wanted to keep the donations local. As letter carriers we knew there were needy families in Encinitas.”
To date, Stamp Out Hunger has collected more than 1.5 billion pounds of food, and each year it gets a little bigger. “Nationwide we collected over 80 million pounds,” Ellas said. “Locally our branch collected over 740,000 pounds, and in Encinitas we collected around 12,000 pounds.”
Homelessness and hunger are serious problems in San Diego, and campaigns like these are crucial to stemming the tide. It’s also worth noting that participation in Stamp Out Hunger is 100 percent voluntary. John Economides has been personally responsible for receiving and sorting Stamp Out Hunger donations for six years. “Each post office participating in this drive does so by the choice of their letter carriers,” he said. “There is a significant amount of added effort on the part of the letter carriers to collect the food from each household that donates. Some carriers need to make multiple trips.”