Food: Residents can leave food by their mailboxes as part of the national effort. Courtesy image

Emily Sawicki

SMDP Staff Writer

On Saturday morning, postal carriers throughout Santa Monica will be going a step further than collecting their normal letters and parcels, picking up donated food for the annual Stamp Out Hunger drive.

Stamp Out Hunger will be back on Saturday, May 14, after an unplanned two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. The annual food drive collects donations for Santa Monica-based Westside Food Bank, and residents are asked to leave out nonperishable food items to be picked up by letter carriers.

The most wanted foods include canned meats (such as tuna, chicken and salmon), canned and boxed meals, canned or dried beans, pasta, canned fruits, 100 percent fruit juice, canned vegetables, cooking oil, and boxed cooking mixes.

On the other hand, be selective with what you offer. Organizers say not to give rusty or unlabeled cans, glass containers, perishable, homemade or expired items, open or used items, and alcoholic beverages or soda.

The drive is sponsored by the United States Postal Service (USPS), together with one of the service’s major labor unions, the NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers). Other partners include the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, UFCW, United Way, AFL-CIO and various corporations.

With the pandemic disrupting the food drive the past two years, Santa Monica letter carrier and NALC Area Steward Justin Landrum said this year’s Stamp Out Hunger drive came with relatively short notice, but all residents of Santa Monica should feel welcome to leave out nonperishable food on Saturday, whether they received a bag from their letter carrier or not.

Landrum said residents who have not received official food drive bags “can use any bag they want, or they can just set the items next to their mailbox.”

Stamp Out Hunger is scheduled to take place in the spring each year, organizers explained, as a way to bulk up food bank supplies that have dwindled after the holiday season, when many people donate food and most annual drives are scheduled.

The Westside Food Bank, based in the Pico neighborhood, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves about 200,000 people each year, including Santa Monica residents.

“There’s so many families who are working families who are one step away from actually needing it themselves,” Landrum, who is helping organize this year’s drive locally, said. “You never know when you’re going to be in that position, where you need to go to a food bank.”

Landrum said that oftentimes when people think about food banks, they envision homeless people, but the drive serves people many types of needs.

“It’s not just homeless people; these are working families. A lot of seniors, a lot of veterans — they depend on it,” Landrum said. “And there’s a lot of people for whom it’s just a one-time thing. They just can’t make it one week, and they need to go there and get a box of food.”

Landrum said it was no coincidence that NALC — which represents all letter carriers in Santa Monica — established the food drive almost 30 years ago.

“Our letter carriers are people who deliver mail to every single address in the nation,” Landrum said, “and letter carriers have always played a role in checking in on elderly, seeing kids growing up and just being part of the community … Letter carriers have also been voted the most trusted government employees in the nation.”

Landrum said that one aspect of being part of a community is taking care of kids, seniors and veterans, which is why Stamp Out Hunger was first established in 1993.

To learn more about the food drive, visit nalc.org/community-service/food-drive

emily@smdp.com