Help 'Stamp Out Hunger' in Watauga County
by Sherrie Norris
For more than two decades, the High Country has helped take a huge bite out of hunger by participating in the annual "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive, sponsored primarily by the National Association of Letter Carriers and Campbell Soup Company.
Now in its 22nd year, the annual food drive, labeled as the largest one-day event of its kind in the nation, will take place again on Saturday, May 10, in more than 10,000 communities and cities across the country. It is held on the second Saturday of May each year, in conjunction with Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization.
Last year's drive brought in 74.4 million pounds nationally, and drove the grand total to almost 1.3 billion pounds in the drive's history.
With more than 50 million people, including nearly 17 million children, facing hunger in America, however, even those numbers are not enough to meet the ever-increasing need.
Locally, the timing for the effort couldn't be better, said Crystal Winebarger, director of operations at the Hunger and Health Coalition in Boone, where food donations from the collection are delivered through the local postal service.
As the agency prepares for the increased need that typically arrives during the summer months, this is a critical time for the food pantry.
"Each school age child at home over the summer requires enough food for an additional 10 meals per week," said Winebarger, "There are many local children who depend on the breakfast and lunch provided at school every day and when there is no school, there is often no food."
Even during the school year, she said, too many children go home to empty cabinets and refrigerators. The situation only worsens during summer break.
"The foods collected during the Stamp out Hunger Food Drive help to stock the food pantry over the summer months so that children and families who need food can get help," Winebarger said.
During the 2013 food drive, 9,650 pounds of food and staple goods were delivered to the Hunger and Health Coalition.
"We are very grateful for that and hope to see that much -- and more -- this year," she said.
As the price of essentials continues to rise, families who never have asked for assistance find that they just can't make ends meet, Winebarger added. "We are serving people who have never been here before, even some who are working two jobs to try to make ends meet for their families."
Current statistics indicate that one in six Americans are either living at risk of hunger or do not know where their next meal will come from, said NALC President Fredric Rolando. "The letter carriers' food drive is just as important today as the first one was back in 1992," he said. "A lot of us have been through a pretty wild winter and springtime has struggled to take hold in many parts of the country. We've got our fingers crossed that Mother Nature will give us a break on that special Saturday -- especially since that happens to be the day before Mother's Day this year."
Cooperation from Mother Nature and the community, in general, will make a tremendous difference locally, said Winebarger.
While many families are planning a trip to the beach, hundreds of local families are worrying about how to feed their children.
The HHC operates six food assistance programs for low-income residents in Watauga County. Donations from Saturday's food drive will support the food pantry program.
Participating in the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is simple. On Saturday, simply hang a bag of nonperishable food on your mailbox, place a box filled with goods underneath, or bring your donation to your local post office.
Letter carriers and postal employees will work with volunteers to collect the food and deliver it to the food pantry at the HHC.
Joining together as national sponsors for this event are The U.S. Postal Service, the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, Campbell Soup Company, Uncle Bob's Self Storage, AARP Foundation and its Drive to End Hunger campaign, Publix grocery stores, Feeding America, Valpak, the AFL-CIO, United Way, and the Valassis marketing firm.
More about the Hunger and Health Coalition
The Hunger and Health Coalition is a private, nonprofit 501C3 organization established in 1982, and has been actively serving the community for 32 years. Each month, the agency provides an average of 1,000 boxes of food, which feeds 2,500 people. One in every three fed is a child under 18 years of age. In addition, more than 3,500 meals are repackaged and distributed and an average of 1,000 prescriptions are dispensed.
The Hunger and Health Coalition is a member of the High Country United Way.
For more information, call (828) 262-1628 or visit http://www.hungerandhealthcoalition.com.