After you drop off that letter you’re sending home to Ma this weekend, be sure to leave out food items to donate at the mailbox, too, because the 26th annual National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is happening this Saturday, May 12.

Stamp Out Hunger is the largest single-day food drive in the nation, racking up 75 million (!) pounds of food nationwide last year for those in need.

“It’s a community-wide effort to help people that may be down on their luck or having some problems,” Tim Thornton, Santa Monica’s NALC Steward says. Thornton has been with the post office since 1985 and has participated in the food drive since its inception in 1993.  For the past 5 years, Thornton has helped coordinate the drive and continues to do so, saying he does it for the good of mankind. “The food that’s collected stays in the community its collected in. So, you’re literally helping out your neighbors, those in the city who might be having a hard time.”

To donate, Thornton says all Santa Monica residents have to do is set out non-perishable food items by their mailbox as early as possible for their letter carrier (before 9 a.m. is a good time, Thornton says), and carriers will take those items to the Westside Food Bank.

Genevieve Riutort, Chief Development Officer for the Westside Food Bank, says Santa Monica residents donated over 130,000 pounds of food locally last year. This food drive is the most beneficial haul for the food bank, bringing in as much as 10,000 pounds of food within an hour of the drive.

Riutort adds that this time of year is crucial for donations as holidays are primarily the most popular times to donate. That leaves the rest of the year’s food supplies as somewhat of a gamble at a time the food bank needs steady donations for those most vulnerable.

“We’re making a real effort to feed as many children as we can over the summer,” she says. “Thousands of kids get food from school and when school isn’t in session, kids miss those meals. So we’re looking for as many donations, easy quick meals, things to put into summer food bags for kids. We appreciate the community’s support and hope folks donate food they’d want to feed their own families.”

Riutort says summer food donations additionally aid their Veteran Lunch Bag and College Campus food programs.

Although the Westside Food Bank doesn’t organize the event, they do receive the food. They welcome donations of all within date packaged foods, with a special need for: protein/energy bars, breakfast cereals, pop tarts, pull tab cans, grab and go items, microwaveable soups, and peanut butter.

For more information, visit http://www.stampouthungerfooddrive.us/