Organizers are hoping residents come out in force for the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive on May 9, but this is one event where mailing-it-in is also acceptable.

The annual event is organized by local letter carriers. Residents are encouraged to leave a bag of non-perishable food by their mailbox and postal workers will deliver those donations to the Westside Food Bank. Stamp Out Hunger is the nation’s largest food drive and in Santa Monica, about 200 carriers will be participating in the event.

Tim Thornton, a 30 year Santa Monica carrier, said postal workers are happy to pick up any donation, whether it is one can, one bag or several bags and that the event builds on the relationship people have with letter carriers.

“The letter carrier is a trusted civil servant for the community,” he said. “There are a lot of people that go out and buy groceries just for this event … we’re in the community, we see the people every day and some carriers are really close to their customers, it’s people working together to help people.”

He said residents could be sure their donations go to the local community as the Santa Monica drive directly benefits the Westside Food Bank.

“All the food that gets collected goes to the local food centers,” he said. “It doesn’t go all over the country.”

Food Bank officials said they appreciated the help.

“We are so grateful to the postal workers for holding this critical food drive. We know that they are not required to participate, and that it creates a tremendous amount of extra work for them,” said Genevieve Riutort, Chief Development Officer for Westside Food Bank. “In the weeks leading up to the big day, we meet with them at their post offices to thank them for their help and find out what we can do to make everything go as smoothly as possible. It’s a labor of love and an incredible show of support and service to the community. The drive typically brings in well over 100,000 pounds of food in a single afternoon, and that food helps to see us through until the fall, when community food drives pick up again.”

Riutort said donations increase to food banks in the end-of-year holiday season but beginning around May, those donations wane. The Stamp Out Hunger drive comes at a critical time for food banks that are preparing for the next wave of need.

“Having enough food is especially critical during the summer months when children who receive free breakfast and lunch at school don’t have access to those meals,” she said.

The Westside Food Bank is a regional hub, distributing food to about 70 member agencies. About 90 percent of their food goes to individuals and families via food pantries that provide free bags of groceries. The rest is provided at shelters, transitional living sites, community kitchens and after school and preschool programs. During 2015 they will reach approximately 105,000 people, nearly half of who are children.

Riutort said the food bank can take most non-perishable foods but they have a specific need for hearty soups and stews, peanut butter, canned chicken and tuna, low sodium, low sugar and foods that meet other special dietary needs, whole grains, and individually wrapped items like granola bars and protein bars.

She said volunteers are also welcome to help with unloading and boxing food at the Westside Food Bank warehouse (1710 22nd Street) between 5 and 9 p.m. on May 9.

According to the National Association of Letter Carriers, no special bags are needed to participate in the drive, but residents might want to consider several factors. Sturdy paper bags are easier for carriers to handle, as are boxes, but donations that are likely to get wet might benefit from being wrapped in a plastic bag (or double bagged, paper and plastic for strength and protection).

In addition to direct donations, locals can attend the Fifth Annual Sugar and Stilettos Bake Sale Extravaganza, also benefiting the Westside Food Bank and St. Joseph’s Center on May 9 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

At the event, held at 2306 Midvale Avenue, Los Angeles, attendees can purchase baked goods from top bakeries, gift certificates, jewelry, beauty items plus activities for kids. The sale also includes the popular crowning of Mr. Sugar & Stilettos 2015 — Jere Burns. Last year, the event raised over $30,000 and organizers hope to beat that this year.

Fore more information about the food bank, visit http://www.westsidefoodbankca.org, email allison@wsfb.org, or call (310) 828-6016. For more information about Stamp Out Hunger, visit http://www.nalc.org/community-service/food-drive. For more information about Sugar and Stilettos visit http://www.sugarandstilettos.com/bakingsale.html.

editor@www.smdp.com

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