Letter carriers set to pick up food sacks at mailboxes

People who want to help feed the hungry will have an easy opportunity to do so Saturday, by simply leaving a sack of food at their mailboxes.

Letter carriers in Jackson County on May 8 are once again helping "stamp out hunger" by picking up the sacks. Sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers, the food drive is in its 18th year and is the largest single-day food drive in the U.S., said Philip Yates, ACCESS Inc. nutrition programs director.

"The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is an easy way for everyone to help families and individuals meet their basic nutritional needs," Yates said.

Donations from homes across Jackson County will be distributed to the hungry through the ACCESS Food Share Pantry Network. All food donated in Jackson County goes to feed the hungry locally through the 23 food pantries run by the organization, he said.

The effects of the recession and accompanying unemployment rates are having a dramatic impact on the people served by agencies such as ACCESS. In Jackson County, the number of people seeking food support has increased by more than 8 percent over the past year, Yates said, and 38 percent of those being helped are children.

"This is a very important food drive for our community as food banks need to be replenished constantly, especially leading up to the summer months when supplies are low and school lunch programs are over," Yates said.

Participants can leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable foods, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal, next to their mailbox prior to the time of regular mail delivery this Saturday.

Food items should be in non-breakable containers, such as boxes and cans.

Another way to participate in the drive is to make a secure online donation at www.access-inc.org. Click on the "Donate Now" button, and then enter "Stamp" in the "Dedication — in honor of" box. A $50 gift can provide enough food to sustain two families for three to five days.

Nationally, drive organizers hope to exceed last year's record-setting total of 73.4 million pounds of donated food, as well as surpass 1 billion pounds of food collected over the history of the drive.

Supporting the drive this year are Campbell Soup Co., the U.S. Postal Service, Feeding America, Valpak, the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, the AFL-CIO and United Way Worldwide.

Locally, volunteers from U.S. Cellular, Wells Fargo and Rogue Federal Credit Union are helping with the effort.

Sanne Specht is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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