Local mail carriers will be taking on some extra work for a good cause Saturday as they collect bags of non-perishable food for area pantries during the annual letter carriers' food drive.
Area residents are asked to fill a bag with food and place it by the mailbox where carriers and volunteers will pick up the bags for distribution to local food pantries.
"This is a great thing for us. We depend almost entirely on donations, and the pantry receives quite a bit from the letter carriers' food drive," said Bill Farnsworth, director of the Marietta Community Food Pantry.
He said last year's drive resulted in enough food for the pantry to distribute for more than a month and a half.
"The carriers donate the labor to pick up the food and turn it into the local post office on Front Street," Farnsworth explained. "Then we pick it up at the post office and bring the food over to the pantry. It's terrific, and some of the carriers even stick around after work to help us load the food onto trucks."
Karen Kumpf, executive director of Washington County's Harvest of Hope, said all area food pantries benefit from the carriers' drive.
At a glance
Letter carriers' Stamp Out Hunger food drive:
The annual National Association of Letter Carriers' 21st annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive to benefit local food pantries is Saturday.
Residents are encouraged to put bags of non-perishable food items by their mailboxes for carriers to pick up Saturday.
Food items may include peanut butter, canned soup, canned meats and fish, canned vegetables, fruits and juices, boxed goods (such as cereal), pasta and rice.
Non-perishable food items cannot be distributed if they're a year past the sale date marked on the food package. Also the food packaging should not be damaged so that it impacts the contents.
Donated food is transported to local post offices where it's distributed to the area food pantries.
The Stamp Out Hunger food drive is the nation's largest single-day food drive, having collected more than 1 billion pounds of food since its inception in 1993.
In 2012 Americans donated more than 70 million pounds of food, which marked the ninth consecutive year that at least 70 million pounds were collected.
Source: U.S. Postal Service and Washington County Harvest of Hope.
"They just have to show up at their local post office to receive a load of food," she said. "This drive is a real help, too, because many pantries are now having to purchase food a lot of the time to keep their shelves stocked."
Kumpf said one concern that people should be aware of during the food drive is making sure the sale date on non-perishable food is not too old.
"People will sometimes donate food that's more than a year beyond the sale date on the box or can," she said. "But food pantries cannot legally distribute any food that's a year past the sale date marked on the package."
Food packaging that has been damaged so that the contents are impacted also cannot be distributed, Kumpf said.
According to the National Association of Letter Carriers website, more than 1,400 NALC branches in nearly every city, state and territory will have letter carriers, family members and thousands of volunteers out and about to help collect, sort and distribute the cans, boxes and jars of non-perishable food items.
The NALC's effort is the nation's largest one-day food collection drive. Last year the food drive gathered more than 70 million pounds of food.