TERRE HAUTE —
Postal workers and friends will pick up more than mail Saturday, continuing a tradition designed to stamp out hunger.
The 20th Annual National Association of Letter Carriers’ food drive returns this weekend with members hoping to pick up 70,000 pounds of food on behalf of Terre Haute Catholic Charities Food Bank. Members of NALC Local 479 have been placing bags at the doors of their regular customers throughout the week, across seven counties representing post offices from Sullivan to Clinton, Rockville to Brazil, and everything Vigo County in between, officials said Thursday.
Keith McElroy, past president of the local and 12-year food drive coordinator, said the tradition of collecting food for charity is near and dear to his heart.
“I have my whole heart and soul in it,” he said, encouraging residents to participate by placing non-perishable food items in their bags Saturday. “The earlier the better.”
Volunteers will meet at the food bank at North 14th and Locust streets that morning before hitting the streets about 9:30 a.m. to help. Food may be dropped off at any post office, Baeslers Market and the Kroger store on Wabash Avenue.
“Whatever is picked up goes to Catholic Charities and it stays in the communities in which it’s collected,” he said, explaining that food bank serves agencies throughout the Wabash Valley.
John Etling, executive director of Terre Haute Catholic Charities, said this year’s goal is 70,000 pounds.
“Last year we did 67,000 pounds,” he said Thursday. “I think we have the capacity to do more and frankly, I think this year we’ll do better. I really do.”
McElroy said that nationally, the NALC’s annual drive has collected upwards of 700 million pounds of food in 20 years, with local numbers edging toward 800,000 pounds. In addition to participating union members, between 40 and 80 local volunteers will help get everything in by about 4:30 p.m.
Etling said his agency appreciates the annual program, and need is always present. The food bank distributes about 2.6 million pounds of food per year, coordinating those efforts with 86 member agencies across the Wabash Valley. Roughly 66 percent of that product is consumed by Vigo County residents, he said, adding the latest numbers estimate more than 41,300 Wabash Valley citizens are “food insecure,” or don’t know from whence their next meal will come.
Based on statistics including income and unemployment, Etling said what that boils down to is there are about 7.5 meals per person gone missing each week in the Wabash Valley.
“I think we see a little spike in the summer because a lot of kids are at home and they’re not in the school system,” he said, explaining the increase in children seen at soup kitchens and other feeding programs during those months.
Adult bodies can better stand the infrequent eating patterns, but children require a steady stream of nutrition to grow and develop, he said.
“We need the staples of a good, nutritious diet,” he said, adding donated vitamins are always welcome as well. “Those certainly carry a significant cost in anybody’s budget.”
Participants are asked to have their bags by their mailboxes before 9 a.m. Saturday.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or email@example.com.