Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive raises thousands of pounds in donations

NILES — Before last Saturday’s Stamp Out Hunger food drive, the Niles Salvation Army’s food pantry was looking pretty sparse.

“There were several things that we were just about out of, such as soups,” said Niles Salvation Army Volunteer Coordinator Tim Douglas.

Other area food pantries tend to experience the same need this time of year, since most donations come in around the holiday season. But thanks to the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, the Niles Salvation Army and food pantries across Berrien and Cass counties, got the chance to stock their shelves.

The annual food drive is put on by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Each year, people across the country put nonperishable food donations next to their mailbox for donation to local pantries.  Niles postal worker Johnny Hernandez said volunteers helped carriers to collect the food and bring it back to the post office. Donations were given to the Niles Salvation Army, the St. Mary’s Christian Service Center and First Presbyterian Church. In Buchanan, carriers collected donations for the Redbud Area Ministries. Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Cassopolis postal carriers also collected donations for their respective pantries.

Hernandez said this year saw great support from the community and they successfully raised more donations than last year, which brought in about 15,000 pounds of food. This year, Hernandez said Niles residents alone raised about 16,162 pounds of food. In Buchanan, more than 4,800 pounds of food was brought in.

“Those were better numbers than last year,” Hernandez said. “Any time there is in an increase, it is great.”

In Edwardsburg, 600 pounds of food was raised and donated to the Edwardsburg Food Pantry. Dowagiac carriers were able to raise 6,800 pounds of food, which was donated to First Christian Church, St. Paul Episcopal Church and ACTION Ministries.

For Douglas, the donations come at a time when the food pantry is not only running low, but also when more food is needed to support families during the summer months.

“We get an influx of need because of kids getting out of the school,” Douglas said. “It is a larger influx during the summer that pretty well matches the need coming up during the holidays. People think about [donating] during the holidays but not always during the summer.”

Douglas said he was proud to see the communities of Berrien and Cass counties come together once again to support their local food pantries.

Hernandez said the food drive could not have been a success without residents and local businesses’ participation. Local restaurants provided food for letter carriers and more than 50 volunteers who worked to collect donations Saturday in Niles. These businesses included: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway, Jimmy John’s, Pizza Transit, El Amigo Pepe, Front Street Pizza, and Saylor’s Pizza Port. Staff from UPS also donated supplies to the cause.

“It really takes a community of people who care to make our food drive a success and we definitely witnessed that this year,” Hernandez said.

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