JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Second Harvest North Florida works each day to answer the call in the ongoing battle against domestic hunger, but the food bank is reaching out this weekend and asking the First Coast community for a helping hand during the "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Residents are asked to leave nonperishable food donations by their mailboxes on Saturday, May 14, which will be collected by postal carriers as part of their normal delivery routes.
The annual food drive is critically important for Second Harvest and other nonprofit organizations in northeast Florida. Food distribution at Second Harvest has steadily risen in recent years, from 6.62 million pounds in 2007, to 7.65 million in 2008, 10.3 million pounds in 2009, and 19.3 million in 2010. Projections for 2011 indicate that Second Harvest will distribute more than 22 million pounds in 2011.
That poundage would mean 17 million meals for families, senior citizens and children who are experiencing dire need because of the ongoing economic recession.
Second Harvest interim director Karen Rieley said that if everyone in Jacksonville donates one can of food during the May 14 event, Second Harvest will collect more food this year than it has in the last four years of the food drive combined. Last year’s drive resulted in more than 350,000 pounds of donations, which equates to more than 269,000 meals. The goal for this year’s drive is to increase donations to 400,000 pounds.
“These donations will come at the perfect time," Rieley said.
Although the NALC effort is a national event, much of the food donated in the Jacksonville area will directly benefit the Second Harvest North Florida, which provides food to nearly 400 community programs such as church pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and senior citizen centers in 18 counties. The NALC Food Drive also provides much-needed food during the typically lean summer months when children are not in school.
This will be the 19th annual "Stamp Out Hunger," which is the largest one-day food drive in the United States. Residents receive a postcard reminder in their mailbox during the week leading up to the event. They are asked to leave nonperishable food donations in bags or boxes by their mailboxes, which will be picked up by their Postal Service letter carriers as they deliver mail on their routes. Publix has donated bags that will be distributed to mailboxes throughout north Florida, but any bag or box can be used.
"While this drive is a lot of extra work for the carriers, they realize where the food is going - here in Jacksonville - and how much of an impact it makes," said Bob Henning, president of the local NALC branch. "All the motivation we need is to walk into the food bank this time of year, when kids are getting out of school, and know that we are helping keep the shelves full. When our carriers deliver the mail, they see hungry families on their routes. This drive is a way to help those families."
The items most needed by the food bank and other agencies include rice, pasta and canned meats - although all nonperishable donations are welcome.
"This is the easiest opportunity people throughout the First Coast have to reach out and help somebody in need," Rieley said. "All a person needs to do is leave food at their mailbox. From there, the postal workers and Second Harvest will ensure that it benefits someone in need."
About Second Harvest North Florida
Second Harvest North Florida is the oldest and largest program of Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida. LSS was founded in 1979 by area Lutherans and business leaders to fill gaps in services offered in the community for people in need. Second Harvest gathers food from local and national sources, shares these resources with more than 500 nonprofit organizations in 18 north Florida counties and helps thousands of people each year who are hungry or at risk of not having being able to provide food for themselves and their families. In addition to collecting and distributing food, Second Harvest serves children in after-school programs through its Kids Cafe and BackPack programs and in summer camps through its Summer Lunch program. It also takes Mobile Pantries filled with Family Boxes of food to people living in neighborhoods with the greatest needs. Call 904.730.8234 for more information about any of these programs and services.