The Westside Food Bank warehouse saw a whole lot of action on Saturday, as the organization was gifted with over 35,000 pounds of food from Santa Monica residents through the 24th annual National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

“It’s such a great show of support from the community,” said chief development officer for the food bank, Genevieve Riutort. “It is so nice to see that the community is ready to support the families in their own back yard. We get really high quality food. People really being thoughtful. Feels really good for the people we are trying to help. Because everyone we interact with in our daily life, you never know who is going hungry or struggling.”

To participate in the food drive, the largest in the nation, residents left out donated food in bags by their mailboxes on Saturday.

Tim Thornton, co-coordinator of the NALC drive here in Santa Monica, told the Daily Press that there is no prize or glory for the letter carriers who pick up the food.

“This food drive is voluntary for our carriers. We get nothing extra for it. We do it out of love for mankind,” Thornton said.

Other neighboring post offices, including Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Culver City, Venice, Bay Cities and Inglewood participated in the food drive and brought the total food collected for Westside Food Bank to nearly 120,000 pounds, with more food still being collected over the next few days. The food bank expects the total donations to reach more than 150,000 pounds as late donations trickle in from local post offices.

After the donations were brought to the food bank on Saturday, nearly 100 volunteers worked from 4 – 9 p.m. helping to sort through the thousands of pounds of food that came in to the warehouse from the seven local post offices that participated in the food drive.

The Westside Food Bank works with more than 65 social service agencies to provide much needed food to residents in need on the Westside of Los Angeles County. All of the food collected from Saturday’s food drive will feed a variety of people in need, including homeless individuals, veterans, seniors and low income families.

Most of the food is distributed via food pantries that provide free bags of groceries.  The rest is provided at shelters, transitional living sites, community kitchens and afterschool and preschool programs.

Last year, Westside Food Bank’s food reached approximately 105,000 people, nearly half of who were children.

According to the food bank, this nationwide food drive fills a critical gap in food donations for food banks across the country,

“Everyone thinks of donating food and money during Thanksgiving and the holiday season, and it’s wonderful to have such an abundance of food donations flowing through our doors during that time,” said Westside Food Bank staff member Michael Girsback. “However, when the summer months roll around, people are often busy taking care of their kids who are out of school or planning out their next vacation, and making a donation to the food bank is the last thing on their mind. That’s what makes this Letter Carrier’s food drive so special – it provides us with thousands of pounds of food just before summer and usually lasts us well into the fall months, when the theme of giving comes back in to people’s minds.”

According to the food bank, if you left a bag of food by your mailbox and it didn’t get picked up there is no cause for concern. Many postal workers simply did not have enough room in their trucks to pick up all the food that was left by resident mailboxes. The local Santa Monica post office has said they will pick up any remaining food that is left by mailboxes through Friday, May 20. Residents can also drop off their bags of food at Westside Food Bank’s warehouse in Santa Monica at 1710 22nd Street, Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

jennifer@www.smdp.com