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The Indiana Daily Student

community events bloomington

Stamp Out Hunger food drive 'not magic,' it takes community


After 25 previous food drives, the process just starts to make sense, said Liz Feitl, the community service liaison for United Way of Monroe County. 

What makes the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive so successful, she said, is the hard work and community connections that have been made over the years. 

"It's not magic," Feitl said. 

The annual food drive in Bloomington is managed by Hoosier Hills Food Bank and the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 828, with sponsors like United Way and Kroger contributing. 

But it's the volunteers who help each year and keep themselves busy past regular hours that make the project such a success, Feitl said — volunteers like John Harl, a retired warehouse worker who's been involved in the food drive for four years, and was involved with HHFB before that.

John Harl is in his fourth year of helping with the Stamp Out Hunger food drive. He said that for him, it's all about the mission to keep anyone from going hungry. Dominick Jean

For him it's all about the mission, he said. Harl said he's been poor and he knows what it feels like to be unsure of his own situation, and nobody should have to feel that way about food or anything else.

"I believe in the basic mission," Harl said. "No one should be hungry."

Harl looked out on the parking lot behind the E. 10th Street post office at around 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The work was just starting and he knew it.

"It's going to get busier," he said.

And moments later, as if summoned by his comment, another postal truck rolled up and the volunteers got to work unloading the vehicle, inspecting bags and loading them into another truck for delivery to HHFB. 

Volunteers unload food at the U.S. Post Office on E. 10th Street on May 12, 2018. Dominick Jean

Last year, on the 25th anniversary of the food drive, 48,826 pounds of food were donated by Monroe County alone. Over 94,000 pounds were donated in south-central Indiana.

"We're hoping to do just a tad bit better," said Joshua Peterson, the president of NALC Branch 828.

The goal for Monroe County is 50,000 pounds, and the goal for south-central Indiana is 100,000.

Volunteers and organizers all agree: it's possible, especially because of the momentum they've built up over the years.

Feitl said not only is this one of the largest single-day food drives nationally, but it also provides a huge diversity of food for families and kids that need food help over the summer months.

Everything from canned chicken breast to sliced peaches comes in during the food drive. It would be easy, Feitl said, to ask for money and buy a load of beans or something similar, but that wouldn't be the best solution.

"Not everyone wants to eat just green beans," Feitl said.

But more amazing than the amount of food is the support from the community, media and different organizations, she said, especially in a country that is often divided by politics. 

But none of that matters during the food drive.

"There is no partisanship here," Feitl said.

As of Saturday evening, 38,000 pounds of food were collected by U.S. postal workers and volunteers with more to come.

While the largest part of the food collection occurred Saturday, Peterson explained that residents can leave food out until about midweek and have it picked up, and U.S. post offices will be accepting donations until Friday, May 18.

A sign for the Stamp Out Hunger food drive stands outside the post office at E. 10th Street. The annual food drive has a goal this year to collect 50,000 pounds of food in Monroe County. Dominick Jean
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