COLUMBIA — Every second Saturday of May, Lindell Lee, a letter carrier, goes on his route and fills up his bag — but not with envelopes.
Lee has been participating in the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, a one-day food drive led by the National Association of Letter Carriers, for 25 years. For Lee, the food drive has been a family event.
“My kids have been helping me since it started,” Lee said. “This year, my granddaughter was helping.”
The 25th edition of Stamp Out Hunger, the nation’s largest single-day food drive, was held in mid-Missouri on May 13. Lee was just one of many letter carriers and other residents who donated food and money to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri this year.
Lindsay Young Lopez, the food bank’s executive director, said she has seen fewer food donations but more money donations this year.
This year the food drive has brought in $59,750 to date, and money will continue to come in. The amount is already more than $8,000 greater than last year’s total of $51,636, Lopez said.
Meanwhile, the weight of food donated has declined from last year’s 171,965 pounds to 132,546 pounds this year. But Lopez said the difference has actually been to the food bank’s benefit.
“This year, we made an attempt to educate donors about the fact that we can take one dollar and turn that into $21 worth of food,” Lopez said.
The extra money donated will be turned into about 90,000 meals in Central and Northeast Missouri, including fresh food that donors couldn’t send through the mail, she said.
Lopez said the food and money collected in each county will be distributed to people within that same county.
“It stays local,” she said.
The Stamp Out Hunger food drive is one of three large-scale food drives organized by the food bank each year. Considering the months in which the events are held, Lopez said the May food drive significantly helps the food bank continue providing food for the 100,000 people it regularly serves.
“We have one that is before Thanksgiving and another one in mid-December,” she said. “That’s really when we take in the bulk of food and monetary contributions. We need to continually find ways to access resources.”
Lopez noted the contributions of letter carriers to this year’s outcome.
“We just are so grateful to the postal carriers,” she said. “They lead this food drive and are so invested in the mission of helping food banks to provide food to those who need it.”
Lee said he has seen more people participate since he started all those years ago. He also said he was grateful for the food bank’s efforts to help the community.
“I think the Columbia food bank does a tremendous job helping us and the city out to get this going,” Lee said. “Words can’t express it.”
Supervising editors are Sky Chadde and Hannah Black.