Community service

Making a difference, one bag at a time

Millions of Americans live from one day to the next uncertain where their next meal will come from—a sad statistic that helps to reinforce the importance of our annual national Stamp Out Hunger® Food Drive, to be held this year on Saturday, May 13.

“Letter carriers see many of these folks along our routes each day,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “Our food drive can make a positive difference in the lives of those who have been dealt difficult hands.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the national drive, Rolando noted. “Our work and our success will be just as crucial this year as ever, since the problem of hunger in this country shows little sign of going away,” he said.

Since the nation’s largest single-day food drive began in 1993, letter carriers—ably assisted by untold thousands of family members, friends and other volunteers—have collected more than 1.5 billion pounds of non-perishable food left by customers’ mailboxes and delivered to local food banks in more than 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.

Last year, carriers collected more than 80 million pounds of food, well above the previous record of 77 million pounds.

Signing on as national food drive partners this year are the U.S. Postal Service, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), United Way Worldwide, AFL-CIO, AARP Foundation, Valpak and Valassis.

Time is rapidly running out for branches to register. Branch presidents can now register quickly and efficiently by using the “Members Only” portal. Once they’re logged into the portal, they can simply select the “Food Drive” button. Enter information into all of the fields, then select “Complete registration.” A notification will be provided to confirm registration. (If you are unable to log in to the Members Only portal, call the NALC Membership Department at 202-393-4695.)

Branch registration locks in a branch’s order for food drive reminder postcards, so it’s important for branches to register early to ensure proper allocation of postcards.

NALC Director of Community Services Pam Donato acknowledged that many branches were putting a great deal of effort into securing sponsors of specially branded food drive bags.

“Such bags are extremely effective, regardless of whether they’re paper or plastic,” she said. “Getting a local sponsor not only helps pay for the bags, it also puts that sponsor’s name right next to our own familiar and trusted Stamp Out Hunger logo—positively associating that sponsor with our drive that proudly helps so many people in the local community.”

Information on ordering bags can be found on the Food Drive Tool Kit.

Postcards and promotional food drive bags are indeed postage-paid mail, and should be handled as such. It’s critical that they get delivered in a time-sensitive and official manner.

It’s also vital that local postal management be made aware of their responsibilities for the food drive, and having local postmasters and station managers commit to a set schedule for postcard and bag delivery is just as crucial.

Contact information for regional and state food drive coordinators is posted on NALC’s online tool kit. If a food drive coordinator has any problems working with local managers on food drive logistics, the branch president or the regional food drive coordinator can lend a hand.

Letters of food drive support from Postmaster General Megan Brennan and USPS Chief Operating Officer David Williams also are posted in the food drive tool kit. Plus, the Postal Service’s top managers have an action plan that represents management’s commitment to the drive, so food drive coordinators can use all of these documents in conversations with local supervisors when discussing the importance and commitment necessary for a successful drive.

New to the food drive this year is a one-stop online shop for ordering wearable and promotional food drive-related items.

“So many people have asked us in the past if they can buy a food drive shirt with Jeff Keane’s Family Circus artwork on it,” Donato said, “or hats, buttons and posters.”

Now they can. Working with longtime NALC merchandising partner K&R Branding Solutions, a unionized firm located in Chantilly, VA, just outside Washington, DC, anyone—from letter carriers to postal customers to volunteers—can select from a wide variety of items that support and promote the food drive, in any quantity, through a new online store:

This online store also carries for sale the 25th anniversary food drive poster, bearing the images of every Family Circus cartoon panel created by Jeff Keane and his father, Bil, before him.

And at you can also purchase sheets of a special, limited-edition commemorative photo panel of Family Circus-themed food drive stamps. The PhotoStamps, printed by and commissioned by the American Philatelic Society for sale at its AmeriStamp Expo in Reno, NV, March 3-5. Jeff Keane was set to be on hand at the expo on March 4 to present them.

Returning this year as the food drive’s celebrity spokesperson is acclaimed actor Edward James Olmos.

Olmos is perhaps best known for his roles in the movie “Stand and Deliver” and in such television series as “Battlestar Galactica,” “The West Wing” and “Miami Vice,” and he is set to star in the upcoming “Sons of Anarchy” spin-off tentatively titled “Mayans MC.” He also has been a major booster of the food drive for a number of years now, starting out by appearing in local public service announcements (PSAs) ahead of the event to promote it and then working last year on a successful national PSA TV and radio campaign.

In the 30- and 60-second PSAs, recorded in English and Spanish, Olmos explains how easy it is to help stamp out hunger. The PSAs will be posted for easy download by broadcast outlets in the food drive’s tool kit. Branch coordinators are encouraged to let local media contacts know where they can find the suitable downloadable files.

“Let’s all work together to make sure this 25th anniversary food drive is our best yet,” President Rolando said. “I thank all those who spend so much of their limited spare time on this crucial effort that helps those in our local communities.”

You can like and share the latest news and updates about the food drive on Facebook at and on Twitter at @StampOutHunger.