No postage needed: Mail carriers to collect groceries for the needy

May 02, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - On May 12, after delivering mail by the ounce, letters carriers in Washington County will collect food by the pound.

That's when mail carriers will hold this year's food drive, a tradition in its 15th year.

In several parts of Washington County, including the City of Hagerstown, residents can leave bags of dry goods at their mailboxes. Mail carriers will collect the food, which will go to Food Resources, a county nonprofit collection and distribution agency.

Last year, Washington County mail carriers collected more than 10,000 pounds of food, said Ruth Anne Callaham, Food Resources' executive director. She called the annual postal food drive one of the most successful for her agency.

Residents also donated about $300 last year. Callaham said $1 buys about 10 pounds of food.

Julie Mitchell, the shop steward of the Hagerstown branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said she'd like to see 15,000 pounds collected this year. Regardless, she said, she's glad to help Food Resources, which needs it.


On Tuesday, Food Resources had about 91,000 pounds of food in its warehouse, Callaham said.

"That's a little on the low side," she said. "We like to have 150,000."

Callaham said the collection is timed well because more food is needed when the school year ends.

Children who receive free or reduced-price meals in school - at least 35 percent of Washington County Public Schools students qualify - instead will rely on community organizations with summer programs, said Callaham, a member of the school board.

Boys & Girls Club of Washington County gives children snacks during its after-school programs, said Buck Browning, the club's director of development. During the summer, though, the club offers lunch, so it will need more from Food Resources, he said.

Members of both the letter carriers union in Hagerstown and the separate rural route carriers union will collect food, Mitchell said.

Some parts of the county, like Hancock and Fairplay, don't plan to take part, according to Mitchell and employees at those post offices.

Smithsburg letter carriers will collect food, Postmaster Barbara Thomas said, but the effort needn't be as large there because local churches and food banks already do a lot.

Mitchell said Food Lion supermarket branches on Wilson Boulevard and Virginia Avenue will accept food donations. She said Tuesday that she was trying to get Martin's supermarkets to participate, too.

Canned meat, cereal welcome at food bank

What does a food bank wish for? Canned meat and healthy cereal.

As Washington County mail carriers prepare for their annual food drive May 12, The Herald-Mail asked Food Resources, which will benefit from the collection, what it needs and wants.

"Canned salmon is high on the list," Executive Director Ruth Anne Callaham said. More expensive and seen as a cut above tuna fish, it's tough for people with low incomes to buy, she said.

Next is canned fruit.

Third, Callaham said, is nutritious cereal.

Cereal manufacturers donate extra stock, but it's often sugary products that didn't sell well, she said.

"Seniors ask for oatmeal. That's hardly ever donated," Callaham said. "Or Special K."

She said many people donate boxes of macaroni and cheese, which is cheap and easy to prepare, but also high in calories.

Although money is easier and more efficient to give, many would rather donate food products.

"Folks love the tactile sense of selecting for someone something they like," she said.

A tangible item can make a more meaningful lesson for children, Callaham said.

Some people are skeptical about giving money because of overhead and other expenses that are taken out, she said.

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