JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The First Coast did its part this past weekend to help "Stamp Out Hunger" in 2008.
The Second Harvest Food Bank of North Florida received more than 283,000 pounds of donated food from a four-county area as part of the 16th Annual National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, May 10. The record total is more than 40 percent higher than 2007, with numbers still rising as donations continue to trickle in to the Jessie Street facility from various postal stations around Jacksonville.
Those numbers are in direct contrast to other food banks around Florida, Second Harvest director Patrick Colley said.
"The reports I have received from around the state are that donations are down or flat (no increase)," Colley said. "Food banks serving all the large areas of Florida are coming in the same or lower with donations this year. That fact drives home even more how strongly First Coast residents answered the call in this year's food drive. It is truly a blessing."
This year's NALC food drive produced an increase of more than 81,000 pounds than were collected in 2007. All donations came from Duval, Clay, Baker and Nassau counties.
"The level of response from the community in relation to the need we have currently is really overwhelming," Colley said. "Our needs are up 32 percent so far this year, and having a food drive that provides a 40-percent increase in donations really helps us keep pace. We can't thank the mail carriers, sponsors, and donors enough for their generosity. These donations will give us an opportunity to meet needs in so many different areas of our community."
Second Harvest serves an 18-county area which provides food to 515 community programs such as church pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and senior citizen centers in 18 counties. The Food Bank also provides much-needed food during the typically lean summer months when children are unable to receive the free or reduced-fee lunches that are available during the school year.
The challenge now, Colley said, is for the Second Harvest staff to effectively sort food that has been collected in order to prepare it for distribution. He said the Food Bank would welcome any and all volunteers.
"We need all the help we can get right now," Colley said.
Interested volunteers should contact Rev. Larry Riley, volunteer coordinator at the Second Harvest Food Bank, at 904.353.3663 (ext. 223) or e-mail email@example.com.