Postal workers encourage people to donate for annual food drive

Published 8:31 am Friday, May 3, 2019

NILES — Postal worker Johnny Hernandez has seen a lot of Niles through his job, including families struggling to make ends meet.

“People have hardships, and sometimes we see it out there,” Hernandez said.

On May 11, Hernandez and postal workers across Niles and the U.S. will join forces to help families put food on their tables through the annual National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

To help postal carriers in their mission, residents can leave nonperishable food items near their mailbox. As postal workers deliver mail, they will pick up donations and bring them back to the post office to be sorted. Those interested in helping are advised to put out their donations for pickup before 9 a.m. In the event of rain or snow, people are asked to place food in plastic bags or reusable grocery bags. 

Hernandez said the food drive offers a no-hassle way for people to contribute to their local food pantries. Donations will go to the Niles Salvation Army, the St. Mary’s Christian Service Center and First Presbyterian food pantry. In Buchanan, donations will support Redbud Area Ministries.

“The need for food donations is great. Almost 50 million Americans — 1 in 6 — are unsure where their next meal is coming from,” Hernandez wrote in an email. “Among them are millions of children, senior citizens and military veterans.”

With many local food pantries receiving the bulk of donations during the holiday season, spring can be a critical time to help local pantries keep their shelves stocked.

Niles Salvation Army Lt. Kendra Hixenbaugh said last month the food pantry gave groceries to 110 families. To keep up with demand, Hixenbaugh said the pantry recently had to buy food instead of relying on donations.   

“If we don’t have to spend money on food, we can use the funds for other services, so donations are appreciated,” Hixenbaugh said.  “Whether it is rain or shine put the food out. We definitely could use the food.”

While Hernandez said local postal workers do not have a specific amount they want to collect, but they hope to meet or exceed the roughly 16,162 pounds of food collected last year. Nationally, Hernandez said the 71.6 million pounds of food was brought in through the drive.

When people make a trip to their mailbox May 11, Hernandez hopes people will keep hungry families in mind. 

“If everybody put a can in their mailbox, we would have a great turnout,” Hernandez said. “It’s really easy to reach out and help and be neighborly.”