By James Beaty
Individuals in the McAlester area have an opportunity this weekend to help reduce hunger — one grocery bag at a time.
Many McAlester-area residents have had a post card and a shopping bag placed in their mailboxes asking them to participate in the Help Stamp Out Hunger food drive campaign.
They can do so by placing some non-perishable food items in the bag and then leaving it by their mail box for letter carriers to pick up on Saturday.
It’s part of an effort by the state chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers of Oklahoma and United Way of Southeastern Oklahoma, which have once again teamed up for the annual event.
“We raised about 7,000 pounds of food last year,” said Yvette Martin, executive director of United Way of Southeastern Oklahoma.
She hopes to equal or surpass that amount Saturday.
In addition to letters carriers in the city of McAlester, rural letter carriers are also participating, Martin said.
Bags placed inside mail boxes for the food drive were donated by Reasor’s, which does not have a store in McAlester. Martin said she wanted to assure everyone that the food donated in the McAlester area will stay in the McAlester area.
“All the food we collect stays right here and will be donated to the Eastern Oklahoma Food Bank as well as churches in the area that operate food banks or soup kitchens,” Martin said.
Those include the First Christian Church, the First and Second Baptist Churches and All Saints’ Episcopal Church, she said.
In addition to the food drive in the McAlester area, the drive is also under way in other southeastern Oklahoma communities Saturday, including Wilburton, Atoka, Hugo, Broken Bow and Durant, according to Martin.
Examples of non-perishable food items suggested by organizers for donation include:
• Peanut butter
• Canned soup
• Canned meat and fish
• Canned vegetables, fruits and juices
• Boxed goods, such as cereals
• Pasta and rice
Martin asked those making donations not to donate glass items, nor any items which are out of date.
Although thousands of local citizens have supported the letter carriers’ food drive in recent years, the need for food assistance still exists for thousands of families, according to organizers of the food drive.
One in five households, or approximately 17 million children across the nation, are what the government calls “food insecure,” according to an annual study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
When adults are included, more than 50 million individuals are at risk of facing hunger, leading to record demands for emergency food assistance at food banks across the nation.
“I just want to remind everybody what a great job our letter carriers do for our area,” Martin said, adding that they work in all sorts of conditions to make sure the mail is delivered.
Now, the letter carriers are asking for something in return — and not much at that.
“All they ask of us is to put out some food,” said Martin.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone.