Major food drive of the year for local food banks takes place Saturday

KINGMAN – Letter carriers will be dropping off mail and picking up food donations Saturday in the 25th annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive conducted by the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Over the last 24 years, letter carriers have collected more than 1.5 billion pounds of food, assisted by thousands of fellow U.S. Postal Service workers, retired letter carriers, family and friends.

Plastic bags were placed in mailboxes of most Kingman residents this week, along with a card asking people to fill the bag with healthy, nonperishable food items and place it by the mailbox Saturday morning.

The food is distributed to local food pantries including Kingman Area Food Bank, St. Mary’s Food Bank, St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank and United Food Bank.

The food drive has been amazing in support of local food banks, said Catherine Walker, executive director of Kingman Area Food Bank. It’s the major food drive of the year for the food bank, and provides several months of food for distribution, she said.

In previous years, mail carriers collected as much as 37,000 pounds of food in Kingman. Unfortunately, collections have dropped dramatically in the last couple of years due to the death of the food bank director and retirement of the postal food drive coordinator, Walker said.

Walker and Barbara Williams, current USPS coordinator, are trying to increase those numbers.

“Part of the problem is that, historically, individuals and businesses donate during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season with minimal amount donated during the year,” Walker said. “People eat all year around. The money and food that comes in is rationed so that we can keep our doors open.”

The food drive started at a local post office in Phoenix in 1990, and the first national drive was officially launched in 1993.

Mail carriers are keenly aware of residents living in tough situations, said Christopher Guzzo, a postal worker in Bullhead City who has coordinated the food drive there for the last seven years.

“I’ve been on my route for 12 years and I see the same people every day,” Guzzo said. “You get to know more about the people than their neighbors do. We see their daily situation, especially with the children. Sometimes the only meal they get is at school.”

Bullhead City residents donate about 10,000 pounds of food every year, and with collections from Lake Havasu City and Parker, it’s probably 25,000 pounds distributed among eight food banks, Guzzo said.

As the letter carriers prepare for the 25th annual food drive, NALC President Fredric Rolando reflected on how the campaign has grown and how many lives have been affected.

“Volunteering our time and effort to do what we can to help families on our routes struggling with hunger is something that every NALC member can be proud of,” he said. “That’s who we are. It’s in our DNA. America’s letter carries, delivering hope.”