Stamp Out Hunger 2011: Spare a can for your fellow man.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 50 million people in this country are “food insecure,” i.e., they do not have regular access to adequate nutrition. More than 17 million of them are children.

You can help, at least a little.

The National Association of Letter Carriers Annual Food Drive is this Saturday, May 14. Pasta, boxed goods, and canned vegetables, fruit,  juice, soup, stew, fish or meat may be put in bags and left where your mail is delivered.

Last year the country’s 230,000 letter carriers collected 77.1 million pounds of grub for regional food banks and other organizations. Is there something in your pantry you can give, or could you add an item or two to your shopping list?

Maybe you’re on a no-room-to-spare budget yourself. But if you can shake loose even a quarter for a package of ramen, I promise you that it will be welcomed by somebody, somewhere.

My own donation bag contains several cans of tuna, two boxes of cold cereal, a couple of cans of beans, a box of Wheat Thins, two boxes of instant potatoes, a jar of peanut butter, a box of mac ’n’ cheese, a few cans of soup, a pound and a half of pasta, a big bottle of catsup, a bottle of barbecue sauce, and two cans of fruit. No ramen, though; I’m fresh out.

Some of those items were free or nearly free thanks to coupons (not extreme ones, though). I’ll probably get to the store between now and Saturday, in which case I’ll pick up a few more things. For now, I remain grateful that:

  • There is still food left in my cupboards
  • I can afford to replace what I took out

Five years ago I was using a food bank myself. Now I donate money, toiletries and school supplies to that organization. I’m grateful for that, too.

Helping, if you can

According to Feeding America, 46 percent of U.S. households have to make the “heat or eat” choice.

Still think you can’t afford a quarter?

Or maybe you really can’t. If that’s the case, go to the Feeding America website and search for food pantries in your area. I’d also like to suggest a column I did for Get Rich Slowly, “Unemployed? Underemployed? Here’s how to get help.” It outlines some ways to stretch available dollars to meet basic needs.

I hope that most of us will make some donation to Stamp Out Hunger, to Feeding America or to a local food bank. Here in Seattle (and elsewhere in the country, I bet) the emergency pantries are being hit pretty hard: fewer donations, but more clients than ever.

That 25-cent package of noodles won’t begin to address bigger issues such as unemployment or underemployment, or provide The Answer to whatever has put that person in the food-bank queue.

But for one day, at least, it will mean going to bed with something in his belly besides hunger.


13 Comments

  1. I’m excited that I’ll be able to fill a bag (or two!) with groceries this year. I’ve been very fortunate with my shopping and couponing and I’m happy to share!

  2. Ro in San Diego

    I’m glad you reminded me it was this Saturday. I’m busy getting ready for my son’s college graduation this weekend but I’ll take some time this weekend to get my bags ready drop them at the post office on Friday if they’ll let me or haul them with me and drop them on the way to the college.

    I’m so greatful to have overflowing cupboards due to purchasing almost everything with coupons. It’ s great that it was mostly free, but it’s also great to help others stay fed.

    When I was young I stood (with my mom and neighbors) in the USDA commodity food lines in the 60′s and in the food stamp lines in the 70′s.

    I am all too familiar with food insecurity in my own life and am thankful that I have the means to help others.

  3. Harry Martin

    Thank you so much for this post. Each year, I try to get my neighbors to donate.

    I am thankful I can put out so many items I’ve purchased with coupons.

    And thank you for publicizing such a worthy drive!

  4. Food insecurity is one of the issues for which I am a very soft touch. Our local grocery stores have places for donations at the register, which is awesome.

  5. Holly Samlan

    As I believe I have mentioned, I am unemployed but I can (and will) give a bit. I have started a bag w/pasta, peanut butter (free last week at a local store) and tuna.

    I KNOW I have some fruit & veg I should be able to add but I need to check the expire/best by dates. Our local food pantry does NOT accept anything w/less than a month’s good dating.

  6. lostAnnfound

    Thank you for the reminder, Donna. I wrote myself a note to get a couple bags ready to put out on Saturday. I also send a check (of whatever amount I can) to the local food bank that also supplies food to many soup kitchens in the area. For every dollar I give them, they can purchase $9.00 worth of food to distribute.

  7. Michele

    Thanks Donna. When certain common foods go on sale (peanut butter, pasta sauce, canned vegs/fruits), my family and I stock up on them to give them to our church. Our church helps our town’s food pantry.

  8. I am so glad I came across this. I donate to this cause every year, but did not know it was this weekend. I will get my bags ready today!

  9. My church has a food bank that we donate to every week. Its hard to understand the impact this has until you see the tears of gratitude in a single mother’s eyes.

    I wasn’t aware of this particular food drive, but you can bet we’ll have some bags for our mail lady to pick up!

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks to all who plan to contribute. I guess the info isn’t getting out as well this year. I only know about it because our letter carrier left cards in our mailboxes the other day.

  10. Holly Samlan

    I was only able to add a pkg of cous cous and 1 can of fruit. Everything else had too short use by/best by dates for my local food pantry to actually use. They would just toss it.

    I use many things WAAAY past those dates. In fact , i am going to make peach crumble w/an old can that I will not replace since I use sooo little in canned fruits or veg.

  11. Thanks for the reminder, Donna. I had forgotten it was this Saturday.

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