BENNINGTON>> Letter carriers will do more than drop off and pick up mail this Saturday.
The 24th annual National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Stamp Out Hunger Food drive will take place on May 14 in an effort to provide assistance to citizens struggling with hunger. Last year, more than 71 million pounds of food was collected nationally amounting to 30 million nurtured stomachs. In Bennington, over 8,000 pounds was taken to local food banks.
Martin Mosher, a letter carrier with the NALC Branch 252 and local food drive coordinator, said it's the perfect time for the drive. Food banks, he said, typically receive the most donations around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"With kids getting out of school soon, it's a good time because they might not have something to eat," he said.
Carriers will do their usual walk on Saturday, but Mosher said when leaving donations on your porch, it's "the earlier, the better."
Residents can leave non-perishable food items in a bag by their respective mailbox for the letter carrier to pick up, according to a press release from NALC. Nonperishable items that food banks frequently request include cereal, pasta, rice, canned goods, 100 percent juice, peanut butter, pasta sauce, macaroni & cheese, beans, baby food, as well as diapers and personal care products like soap and shampoo. Glass containers and expired products are not accepted.
In Bennington County, there are 12 charitable food sites. And one in four children are food insecure, according to Hunger Free Vermont, meaning they don't have consistent access to nutritional food. There are 6,423 residents who utilize 3SquaresVT, formerly known as Food Stamps. The amount of donations last year was down from 2014's count of 15,000 pounds.
Mosher gathered sponsors, designed the t-shirts and distributed signs in the community. He said six out of 10 letter carriers are NALC members.
"I have the day off, but I'm bringing my son and his friends to help the carriers out," he said. "Some will put them [cans] in their bag, but if it gets too much, they drop it off at their truck."
Some retired carriers will voluntarily pick up food, but do not have the authority to open mailboxes.
Bags from the Rutland Credit Union were given to residents. Mosher said the bag doesn't have to be used for donations, but can be.
Participating food banks include HIS Pantry at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales, Kitchen Cupboard and the Bennington Rutland Opportunity Council (BROC). Food banks will collect from their corresponding post offices in Pownal, North Bennington, Shaftsbury, Arlington, Dorset, and Manchester.
Among the items being donated, some have written checks to food banks while others include hygiene products.
"You may think it's odd, but it's something they need," he said.
Sponsors of the local effort include Bennington Sports and Graphics, Bennington Museum, Martin's Laserwash, Gamer's Grotto, and Wassicks for the cost of t-shirts for workers and volunteers.
For more information on the national movement, or to make a donation, visit nalc.org.
Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.