By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
Don’t be surprised if you see various food items lying on the side of the road this weekend.
Letter carriers throughout the country will be collecting nonperishable food donations Saturday, May 9, for the National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive.
These donations then go directly to local food pantries to provide food to those in need.
As a Port Huron letter carrier and coordinator for the local effort of the food drive, Michelle Young said it’s one of the easiest ways to collect food that she has seen in the 21 years that it has taken place in St. Clair County.
“They just have to put it by their mailbox,” Young said. “We are asking for anything that is non-perishable, and we prefer it to not be in a glass container because of the breakage that can take place.”
In last year’s efforts, county residents donated 76,000 pounds of food. Since the annual food drive first began in 1994, county residents have raised $1.1 million worth of food.
“We’d love to surpass what we collected last year,” Young said. “It’s the time of year that kids will be getting out of school and they will need more food at home.”
The food drive’s record was 91,000 pounds in 2010.
The national event will take place in Algonac, Croswell, Goodells, Jeddo, Lakeport, Lexington, Marine City, Marysville, Port Huron, St. Clair and Yale.
All donations will go toward local food banks including St. Mary’s Catholic Church in St Clair, SOS in Marysville, Blue Water Community Food Depot and MidCity Nutrition in Port Huron, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Yale, and North Lakeport Wesleyan Church in Lakeport.
Young recommends residents who plan on donating food on Saturday have the items out before 10 a.m.
“If we happen to miss it on Saturday, people can put it out on Monday or call the post office to pick it up,” she said. “Picking up mail is our priority, so occasionally we do miss some. Generally, we will leave a thank you note in the mailbox, so they know it has been picked up by the right source.”
The letter carriers receive additional help from the community each year.
The Young Marines come in the morning and the Port Huron Northern baseball team comes in the afternoon to unload the food and help sort.
Young said retirees often come out and bring pickup trucks to help some of the carriers who are overwhelmed or can’t bend over and pick up food all day.
Having worked at the post office for 27 years and picked up food before coordinating the event, Young has noticed the need seems to grow each year.
“It’s the biggest food drive we have for the food depot,” said Bill Heinen, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Port Huron District Council, which runs the Blue Water Community Food Depot. “We try to do sorting as the food comes in, but when the food comes in faster, it is a matter of getting it inside before it gets dark.”
From peanut butter to Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Heinen says the food drive proves to be an important endeavor.
According to Heinen, the food depot generally receives enough donated items to hand out for the next six to eight weeks.
“It’s great that we get items we wouldn’t normally have on the shelf,” he said. “People get jobs and the economy gets better to an extent, but some still need that supplemental food. We are grateful for anything that comes in.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 4, 2015)