Neither Second Harvest of South Georgia nor the Valdosta-area postal workers knew what to expect 10 years ago when introducing plastic bags to the 2003 Letter Carriers’ National Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
It worked so well that Second Harvest, which is the area food bank, and National Association of Letter Carriers local branch 998 have been doing it ever since. They’ll do it again this week as the postal food drive returns Saturday, May 11.
Ten years ago, Second Harvest arranged for the plastic collection bags to be mailed to area residents prior to the food drive date. Frank Richards, the food bank executive director who had the idea for the bags, predicted an increase in donations, a healthy increase by several thousand pounds above the approximately 40,000 pounds collected in 2002.
They certainly didn’t expect to see the average 40,000 pounds of food collected double to 80,000 pounds. But that’s what happened. Postal trucks were loaded down with 40 tons of food.
Ever since, Second Harvest of South Georgia has mailed specially marked plastic bags to area residents prior to the collection day. National Association of Letter Carriers local branch 998 collects the goods, with help from volunteers also driving to area mailboxes to lessen the load on postal truck tires.
The food bank asks residents to be aware that volunteers will be wearing yellow or green Stamp Out Hunger T-shirts, or will have documentation proving their volunteer status. Second Harvest asks that people not call 911 or law-enforcement on these volunteers collecting food from mailboxes.
Other communities have adopted Richards’ idea of placing bags in advance in mailboxes, while Valdosta and South Georgia continue demonstrating a record-setting propensity for generous giving.
Last year, the postal food drive collected more than 200,000 pounds in the South Georgia region.
Regional residents should receive a reminder postcard by mail and the plastic bag Friday. If someone does not receive the specially marked bag, they may use any type of bag.
To participate, residents should place canned foods and non-perishable items in the bag. No perishable foods. No homemade foods. No glass containers.
Early Saturday morning, the filled bags may be hanged from or placed inside the mailbox. Residents of apartment complexes with cluster mailboxes may still place their bags of food by these clusters. The bags of food may be placed wherever a resident normally receives mail. Throughout Saturday as part of their normal routes, postal workers and other volunteers will collect the food bags.
If you are too late to put your bag on the mailbox, you may deliver your food to either the downtown or northside Valdosta post offices, where the letter carriers will be unloading their foods and Second Harvest will be filling trucks for transport to the food bank headquarters.
The drive represents the region and the nation’s largest single-day donation of food each year.
More information: Call America’s Second Harvest of South Georgia, (229) 244-2678.