Stamping out local hunger
Postal carriers hold annual food drive
By Angie Landsverk
“That’s pretty huge for a small town,” said Howard Pope.
He is a letter carrier in the Waupaca Post Office and the local food drive coordinator.
Last year, local postal service workers and volunteers collected 10,002 pounds of food.
“It’s been at that amount a handful of years,” Pope said. “It’s a cooperative effort between the food pantry, volunteers, postal service employees, businesses and sponsors.”
This year’s food drive is on Saturday, May 11.
Area residents may expect to see blue food drive bags distributed to their homes within the week.
Local sponsors cover the cost of the bags.
On the day of the food drive, people are asked to place donations of non-perishable food items in the bags and place them in or near their mailboxes by 8 a.m.
They are reminded to not donate items in glass containers or homemade items and to also check expiration dates before donating food items.
The National Association of Letter Carriers holds the annual food drive.
Last year’s food drive resulted in 71.6 million pounds of food being collected nationwide.
Since 1992, 1.67 billion pounds of food have been collected, Pope said.
The local drive benefits the Waupaca Area Food Pantry.
In 2018, the pantry served 4,263 people and a total of 2,005 families, according to Kathy Jenner.
She is the pantry’s volunteer daily operations manager.
That compares to 4,596 people and 2,139 families in 2017 and 5,453 people and 2,417 families in 2016.
The pantry saw about 200 families per month from 2015 to 2016 and is now seeing about 150 families per month, Jenner said.
Through March of this year, it served 817 people and 401 families, she said.
She said the lower numbers are the result of an improving economy and lower unemployment rate.
“Even though the numbers have gone down, there’s still the need out there,” Jenner said.
Nationally, one in eight Americans are food insecure and one in six children are living in a food insecure household, Pope said.
About 5 million people age 50 and older face hunger, he said.
“Almost 73 percent of the households served by Feeding America live at or below the federal poverty level,” Pope said.
That is an income of $12,140 for an individual and an income of $20,780 for a family of three, he said.
Jenner said this food drive gets the pantry through the summer.
Its current needs include crackers, jam, jelly, drink mixes for water, pancake mix, syrup, tomato paste, soup (vegetable, tomato, chicken noodle and creams), ramen noodles, baking items, canned vegetables (sauerkraut, spinach, carrots, peas, asparagus and corn) beef stew, chili, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and condiments (salad dressings, spices, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, dips, olives and pickles).
Pope said people may also drop off food donations at the post office during lobby hours.
In addition, the pantry accepts items for the food drive during its hours, which are 9-11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The pantry is located at 800 Churchill St.
“They must tell them it is specifically for this one (Stamp Out Hunger), so it is counted in the total,” Pope said.
He hopes this year’s food drive also hits the 10,000-pound mark.
“I’d like to see us continue this trend. It’s a nice number, and it helps the food pantry get through these crucial summer months,” Pope said.
Jenner said the pantry sees more families during the summer.
“There’s still a need out there, and we’re still looking forward to a bountiful postal service food drive,” she said.