Letter carriers will make a special pick-up: food donations
on May 11, 2011
As schools go on summer break, and fewer low-income kids get access to free school lunch programs, demand among poor families for help feeding their kids will surge, said Suzan Bateson, executive director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank.
“Probably one of the biggest worries for parents in low-income communities is not where they’re going to go on vacation, but how they’ll keep their kids fed,” Bateson said. “Every summer, every single soup kitchen in Alameda County will report that there’s an increase of children coming to their sites.”
To keep its 118,000 square foot warehouse stocked for the expected spike in demand, the food bank will partner with letter carriers throughout the county to collect donated food on May 14. People can simply fill a bag with non-perishable food items and place it by their mailbox prior to the mail delivery this Saturday. Donations can also be dropped off at any post office until May 21.
The one-day effort is part of a national program called Stamp Out Hunger, which dates back to 1992. Last year, according to the food bank, 203,475 pounds of food were collected throughout the county as part of the program, of which 32,109 pounds—the equivalent of more than 25,000 meals— was from Oakland.
“This year’s goal, as always, is to collect more than last year,” said Miranda Everitt, communication coordinator for the food bank.
“This is a food drive that comes at a time of year when we are responding to incredible need in our community,” said Bateson. The food bank’s emergency food help line, she said, referred roughly 3,500 households to emergency food sites last month—a 16 percent increase over last April.
According to the food bank’s website, the organization is working through a network of 275 member agencies, primarily food pantries, child-care centers and senior centers, to distribute “enough food for 30,000 meals weekly.”
Nearly a half—43 percent—of the food bank’s clients are children, said Bateson, who added that there are not enough free lunch sites during the summer to accommodate all of the children who need them. Bateson said the food bank will publish a list of places that provide free lunch at the beginning of the summer break, which may include children’s programs, soup kitchens and churches.
For people wishing to make a contribution to the Stamp Out Hunger program, Bateson suggests people go shopping for non-perishable goods specifically intended for donation, rather than cleaning unwanted food items out of their cupboards, and use it as an opportunity to teach their children to look for food with the most nutrition at the best price. “What we prefer is people to be very intentional and buy products for our clients,” she said. Canned items (but not those in glass containers) that are dense in protein, such as peanut butter, tuna, chicken and low-sugar cereals are most preferable, said Bateson.
“Remember that this is going to be transported by letter carriers and items might get squished,” said Bateson. “Don’t put anything delicate in there—be practical.”
The Alameda County Community Food Bank, which serves 49,000 residents every week, has collected 598,000 pounds of food since last July. Photo courtesy of ACCFB.
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