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Food drive to 'Stamp Out Hunger'

Date: 5/2/2013

By Lori Szepelak

GREATER SPRINGFIELD — The largest one-day food drive in the nation — Stamp Out Hunger by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) — is slated May 11.

The 21st annual drive is a coordinated effort with participation from the NALC, and help from rural letter carriers, and backing by the United States Postal Service, the Campbell Soup Company, AFL-CIO, United Way, Valpak Direct Marketing Systems and Uncle Bob's Self Storage. Local NALC Branch 46 of Western Massachusetts will help restock the 24 food pantries throughout Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties.

Last year's collection for the regional branch was 165,000 pounds, all benefiting locally run pantries, according to Vincent Siniscalchi, NALC Branch 46 Food Drive Coordinator, who is based in Springfield. Letter carriers will collect nonperishable food donations left by mailboxes and in post offices and deliver them to community food pantries.

The first nationwide food drive was conducted in October 1991, but the food bank experts suggested doing the drive in May because of the greater need for food during the summer when stocks nearly run dry.

In 2012, 70 million pounds of food was collected nationwide with more than 1,500 branches participating.

Dave Lundgren, a letter carrier in the Oakdale section of Holyoke, noted in an interview with Reminder Publications that in recent years area residents are "still giving but in smaller quantities."

Lundgren said he has seen on his route residents who used to donate two bags of food now are only able to donate one.

"When the economy goes down, the giving goes down," he said.

Brenda Lamagdeleine, pantry manager and volunteer coordinator for Providence Ministries for the Needy (PMN) in Holyoke, echoed those sentiments.

"Donations are significantly down so we depend on all the food drives and donations we receive," she said. "Our donors are phenomenal and we thank them for all they do for us."

Lamagdeleine noted that staples including "foods in a can" are always welcome, as well as peanut butter, pasta sauces, and canned vegetables.

"We are seeing more elderly and middle class residents looking for food," she said. "We rely on the post office for this drive. The carriers like doing the drive and understand what it means to have helped others. They're awesome."

Lundgren and Lamagdeleine both stressed not to donate food items that have already been opened or have an expired date noted on the packaging.

"We find a lot of throw away items that day and then it costs us to discard them," Lamagdeleine said.

Lamagdeleine added that when considering to donate to any food drive, "think of the kids," she said, adding, "when the children go without nutritious food, the entire family goes without."

The NALC Food Drive has collected more than 1.2 billion pounds of food in 20 years.