The National Association of Letter Carriers hosted its “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive with Hoosier Hills Food Bank from May 14-20, after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NALC is an American labor union representing non-rural mail carriers that frequently collaborates with other organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters for its Bowl for Kid’s Sake event and the Salvation Army for its Coats for Kids event.
Hoosier Hills Food Bank is a local nonprofit organization that provides food to other nonprofits and lower-income residents in the area.
Julio Alonso, the executive director and CEO of Hoosier Hills Food Bank, said HHFB and NALC's partnership goes back 25 years.
Generally, he said, the two organizations start planning the food drive in the fall before the event. But given the pandemic, Alonso said both organizations didn’t know there would be a drive until this April.
This food drive is the largest annual food drive for HHFB, Alonso said, and they count on it every year to prepare for the summer. He said in the last food drive back in 2019, they collected 42,000 pounds of food.
Joshua Peterson, the president of the South Central Indiana branch of NALC, said in an email that NALC Branch 828 has been working with Hoosier Hills Food Bank for several years. This year, the association collected nearly 40,000 pounds of food from the Bloomington area alone. Branch wide, he said in the email, they collected almost 85,000 pounds.
Alonso said it’s very encouraging that the current count is similar to past years. He said they didn’t know if people would have forgotten about the drive or that HHFB wouldn’t be able to spread the word as fast given less time.
“Having people involved in doing it this year was really important to getting back on track,” Alonso said.
He said that when the summer starts, HHFB loses a lot of its volunteer base, but the need actually increases during the summer months.
“We’re hoping to not just get back to pre-pandemic levels, but to do even better than that with the attention that’s been drawn to food insecurity,” Alonso said.
Alonso said during the food drive, volunteers worked at the post offices and also on different routes to pick up food from mailboxes.
He said that in the next few weeks, they would be working to sort the food into food groups and would love any willing volunteers.
Ryan Jochim, the manager of volunteer services at HHFB, said in an email that the volunteers also folded Kroger bags and staple postcards to them.
On the days of the drive the volunteers also helped unload mail trucks at the post office after the collection process, he wrote in an email.
“This food drive, specifically, gives us a lot of high-quality food to give out to our member agencies in the summer months,” Jochim said in an email. “So to have this event back is a huge benefit to the food bank.”
Peterson said in an email, city and rural carriers deliver a mailing the week prior to the food drive and encourage people to donate various canned goods, non-perishables and glass items.
People typically think of donating near the winter holidays, but those aren’t enough for the whole year, Peterson said in an email. He said that the food drive during the middle of the year gives food banks variety and the ability to sustain their agencies.
“We’re excited that the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive could be an in-person food drive again,” Peterson said in an email. “We hope that we can continue having in-person food drives in the future.”
To find more information about volunteer opportunities, email hhfoodbank.org or call 812-334-8374.