PARKERSBURG - Local mail carriers throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley will be participating in their annual food drive on Saturday, collecting food on their routes.
The National Association of Letter Carriers is holding its 21st annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive locally and across the country on Saturday.
The event is held each year on the second Saturday in May when carriers collect non-perishable food donations while making their rounds. The donations go to local food pantries.
In the Parkersburg area, local donations totaled about 44,000 pounds in 2012, said Roger Francis, Branch 481 food drive coordinator in Parkersburg. He hopes to raise another 6,000 pounds, setting a goal of 50,000 pounds for this year.
All carriers in the 261 zip area are participating from Parkersburg, Vienna, Williamstown, Ravenswood, Paden City, Sistersville and New Martinsville, he said. For the first time rural carriers in the Rockport and Washington, W.Va., areas will participate in the collections.
To participate in the drive, leave a can of non-perishable food at the mailbox and the letter carriers will collect them. Items needed are canned tuna fish, peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce, cereal, oatmeal, pancake mix, sugar and flour, cooking oil, dried beans, syrup, soup, canned meat and canned pasta products.
Carriers in Washington County will also be participating in the food drive.
"This is a great thing for us. We depend almost entirely on donations, and the pantry receives quite a bit from the letter carriers' food drive," said Bill Farnsworth, director of the Marietta Community Food Pantry, which receives a portion of the donated food.
Last year's drive resulted in enough food for the pantry to distribute for more than a month and a half, he said.
"The carriers donate the labor to pick up the food and turn it into the local post office on Front Street," Farnsworth said. "Then we pick it up at the post office and bring the food over to the pantry. It's terrific, and some of the carriers even stick around after work to help us load the food onto trucks."
Residents donating food are asked to check the sale date on non-perishable foods they are donating to make sure it is not too old. Food pantries cannot legally distribute any food that's a year past the sale date marked on the packaging.Food packaging that has been damaged so that the contents are impacted also cannot be distributed.
According to the National Association of Letter Carriers website, more than 1,400 NALC branches in nearly every city, state and territory will have letter carriers, family members and thousands of volunteers out and about to help collect, sort and distribute the cans, boxes and jars of non-perishable food items.
The NALC's effort is the nation's largest one-day food collection drive. Nationally, thousands of carriers across the nation collected more than 70 million pounds of food in 2012. Over the last 20 years, more than a billion pounds of food were collected.