One of our country's largest food drives is Saturday and we all have an opportunity to take part by simply placing donated non-perishables at the mailbox.
The National Association of Letter Carriers created the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive which this year takes place on May 10. Letter carriers and volunteers will be picking up donations throughout Lee County and organizers are encouraging everyone to fill food drive or other bags with canned and boxed items and leave them by the mailbox.
All of the food donated in Cape Coral and Fort Myers will go to the Harry Chapin Food Bank, which has a partner food pantry here in the city.
It's a good program. A very good program.
The food bank, which serves Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties, provides food for more than 30,000 individuals each month.
According to the food bank Web site "In 2013 alone, the Harry Chapin Food Bank distributed 17.5 million pounds of food, provided 14.6 million meals, and turned every $1 into $6 worth of food for those in need."
The agency partners with more than 150 soup kitchens, food pantries and other entities, including the Cape Caring Center, as a means of living up to its motto: Fighting hunger, feeding hope.
And hunger is an issue that still hits very close to home here in Cape Coral. The job market, while definitely on the upswing, has yet to reach normalcy, especially in terms of good, skilled-position employment that provides more than a pay check to pay check standard of living.
If you think one small bag of non-perishables won't make an impact, please understand, those bags quickly add up in an effort this large, making this a key food drive. It's also one that is especially timely here in Southwest Florida as the snowbirds are returning north even as the local need increases as seasonal jobs are lost and hours are cut.
Make no mistake - the drive's timing is crucial since the shelves at many food banks are depleted in the spring.
"During the summer months, many school breakfast and lunch programs are not available to children in need making the food bank supplies more critical," organizers said.
Locally, 40 percent of those served by the Harry Chapin Food Bank and its partners are children. Ten percent are seniors.
Once the food is picked up by letter carriers and purple-shirted Stamp Out Hunger volunteers, it will be quickly sorted and distributed to where it will make a difference.
"We will have 300 volunteers here that day to sort the food before it goes out to the various agencies," said Harry Chapin associate director Joyce Jacobs in an interview last week with The Breeze. "This is the biggest one-day food drive of the year for us and people are very generous because it is easy. All they have to do is fill the bag and leave it by their mailbox."
Yes, it's that easy.
We urge everyone who can to dig into their pantry for canned and other non-perishable food goods. Proteins - peanut butter, tuna and other canned meats - are especially welcome, but whatever you can give will help with a problem very near to home.
- Breeze editorial