Updated May 9, 2014    
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Letter Carriers’ Food Drive: FAQs

Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm for the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive! Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs):

I put food out and it wasn’t picked up. Why not? We try to touch every single mail box in America during the Food Drive, but the fact is that we do admittedly miss some. The Food Drive takes place in more than 10,000 cities and towns across America. It’s an effort to raise national awareness about the real, ongoing problem of hunger in every community, and it’s a sincere attempt to use our unique delivery network to do something about it. Please note, though, that participation is strictly voluntary, and no system is perfect—oversights will occur. If your donation is not picked up, contact your local post office or simply place your donation by your mailbox on Monday instead. (We’ll be picking up missed donations on Monday, too.) And of course, your local food banks and pantries will gratefully accept your donation in person. In any case, we are deeply thankful for your generosity and are truly sorry for any inconvenience.

When do I put out the food? On the second Saturday of May, just set out your food well before your letter carrier’s normal pick-up time. Note that he or she will be delivering and collecting mail as usual, on top of collecting food donations, so that pickup time could be slightly later than usual.

Do I need to use a special bag? No! No special bags are needed. Paper is sturdy and tends to hold more food, while plastic holds up better if it gets wet (in the rain, etc.). Cloth bags or boxes are also fine. So it’s your choice. And most bags and boxes can be easily recycled. We’ll take anything you leave out!

I received a special Food Drive bag in the mail; do I have to use only that bag? You can if you want to, but any old bag is just fine. (See above.)

I hear that some people got special Food Drive bags in the mail but I didn’t get one; what gives? A number of letter carrier locals have entered partnerships with sponsors to provide specially marked “Food Drive” bags that get mailed to customers. These sponsorships help defray the costs associated with making the bags and mailing them. Plus, national sponsors like AARP Foundation and Publix have also sponsored bag distributions as well in certain regions of the country. So bag distribution isn’t national — at least not yet. And you can always use your own bags or boxes.

Can I donate pet food, too? The Food Drive is primarily a people-food food drive, but if you also want to give pet food in addition to your regular donation, food banks will direct it to pet shelters and organizations in the area that have a need.

Can I donate baby food, too? Yes! Babies will definitely appreciate your generosity, even if they don’t say so. Just follow the usual rules — avoid glass containers (if you can), and make sure it hasn’t expired.

Can I donate toiletries or other personal care items, too? The Food Drive is primarily, well, a food drive, but if you also want to give personal care items such as those, in addition to your regular donation, food banks will put them to good use with organizations that also provide help to those in need.

Does my food donation stay local? Yes — all food stays in your local community. It’s not shipped off to some regional distribution center hundreds of miles away. If you want to know where yours is going, call your local post office and ask to speak to your local food drive person. There is also a list of local food drive coordinators posted on the Food Drive tool kit.

Can I give money in addition to (or instead of) food? While we strongly encourage food donations over money donations, we won’t turn away any donations. If you want to give money, please avoid donating cash; just write a check made out to your local food bank, food pantry or shelter, seal it in an envelope (no postage required), write “Letter Carriers’ Food Drive” on the envelope, and leave it by or in your mailbox.

Are my donations tax-deductible? Yes. Contact your local food bank to get the proper forms, receipts or other details. The food drive person at your local post office should be able to help connect you.

How can I help out (besides donating food)? If you would like to volunteer with food distribution, sorting, or in any other capacity, call your local post office and ask to speak to the local food drive person there. You can also contact national Food Drive sponsor Feeding America for a list of food banks and pantries, many of which have a great need for volunteers all throughout the year. Feeding America’s number is 800.771.2303.

Does every letter carrier take part in the Food Drive? As much as we would like every letter carrier to take part — and a sizable majority of them do — some carriers as well as some post offices opt not to take part in the national Food Drive, for a variety of reasons. Note that letter carrier participation in the food drive is strictly voluntary.

How do I know whether my local letter carrier or post office is taking part in the Food Drive? Just call your local post office and ask to speak to your local food drive person. There is also a partial list of local food drive coordinators posted on the Food Drive tool kit.

When will we know the results of this year’s drive? All locals must have their results mailed in to the Letter Carriers’ national headquarters in Washington, DC, by Saturday, May 24. The tabulated results are expected to be revealed the first week of June, and they will be posted on Facebook, Twitter, and here.