Postal food drive returns

Submitted PhotoSecond Harvest of South Georgia staffers stand with the nearly 93 tons of food collected during the 2018 postal food drive. The postal food drive returns Saturday for the first time in three years.

VALDOSTA – For the first time in three years, the Letter Carriers’ National Stamp Out Hunger food drive returns Saturday, May 14.

The drive was cancelled the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Eliza McCall, chief marketing officer for Second Harvest of South Georgia, the local and regional food bank.

The bags for the postal food drive should arrive in the mail late this week.

Neither Second Harvest of South Georgia nor the Valdosta-area postal workers knew what to expect nearly 20 years ago when introducing plastic bags to the 2003 Letter Carriers’ National Stamp Out Hunger food drive.

It worked so well that Second Harvest and National Association of Letter Carriers local branch 998 have been doing it ever since.

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.

The organization certainly didn’t expect to see the average 40,000 pounds of food collected double to 80,000 pounds. But that’s what happened, according to food bank officials. 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.

In 2019, 108,000 pounds of food was collected across the Second Harvest of South Georgia's 26 counties.

If residents don't receive a bag in the mail, McCall said food can be placed in any type of bag and left on or by the mailbox.

Second Harvest asks that people not call 911 or law-enforcement on 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.

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, May 14, 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, food bank officials said.

The bags of food may be placed wherever a resident normally receives mail. Throughout Saturday as part of their normal routes, postal workers and volunteers will collect the food bags.

If residents are too late to put a bag on the mailbox, people may deliver food to the Valdosta post office, where the letter carriers will be unloading donations 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: Visit www.feedingsga.org or call (888) 453-4143.

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