‘Really good timing’ for food drive

by Town Reminder

‘Really good timing’ for food drive
Post office hosts annual ‘Stamp Out Hunger’ collection this Saturday

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Assisting the hungry is as easy as mailing a letter.
The South Hadley Neighbors Helping Neighbors [NHN] Food Pantry will again participate in the annual food collection drive, hosted by the United States Postal Service, on Saturday, May 12. And according to NHN Food Pantry Director Carol Isakson, this drive could not come soon enough.
“This is really good timing for the Postal Food Drive because believe it or not, we have run through more than half of the food so generously donated at the Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Bag The Community’ drive,” said Isakson.
Having opened nearly one and a half years ago, the NHN Food Pantry now serves more than 200 clients – 226 to be exact – on a regular basis. The total client number grows by three of four families each week. At the NHN Food Pantry, clients receive two days worth of food for every person in their family for a two-week period of time. While this may not seem like very much, a number of clients have storage issues with limited space or do not have a vehicle to transport more days of food. This past January, following the enormously generous response from the community in the ‘Bag The Community’ event, the pantry was able to give out four to five days worth of food for every person in a family.
In the past year, a number of local businesses have held food drives to benefit the pantry, which have been widely successful. Most recently, NHN Food Pantry volunteers participated in the Leprechaun Plunge to raise funds for the pantry, totaling $8,900.
While donations of food items are crucial, pantry volunteers can stretch dollars further. For 19 cents a pound, pantry volunteers can purchase food in bulk at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. For instance, cereal is a staple food item in which the pantry is continually in need. “When a $4 box [of cereal] is generously donated, we are able to turn around and obtain, like, $50 worth of cereal at the Western Mass Food Bank with the savings due to the donation,” said Isakson.
Other essentials are available to clients as well. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, trash bags, diapers, shampoo and conditioner are just a handful of non-nutritional items offered there. And with a recent deduction in SNAP benefits, the option to pick up these non-edible but still essential items allows for those in need to spend SNAP monies on actual food.
“Personally, I’m really grateful for this food drive,” said Isakson, “but discouraged that after 19 years, hunger is still prevalent in our country.”
According to the town’s website, less than six percent of South Hadley’s p[population is living in poverty. And although there is a stigma of South Hadley being completely affluent, Isakson says there are many more residents in need than is believed. “The amount of money Kim Kardashian is paid for showing up to a one night event could run our pantry for a year,” she said. “The future is not looking much brighter as federal and state food programs are under funded.”
Approximately 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, lack sufficient access to food. Together, The Postal Service, the National Association of Letter Carriers [NALC], Campbell Soup Company and Feeding America, orchestrate “Stamp Out Hunger,” the nation’s largest single-day food drive in local communities across America to combat the problem of hunger.
On Saturday, May 12, residents are asked to leave a bag of non-perishable food items or other essential items by their mailboxes to be picked up by their local mail person that day.
In 2011, letter carriers collected 70.2 million pounds of food donated by customers on their delivery routes, which marked the eighth consecutive year the total food collection was at least
 70 million pounds.
“The Postal Service is pleased to continue supporting the National Association of Letter Carriers as we enter our 20th year together to help Stamp Out Hunger in America,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “I am confident the 2012 campaign will be our best ever because the need continues to grow.”
The Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry is located at the United Methodist Church at 30 Carew Street, South Hadley Falls, and can be reached at (413) 530-8240.
Donations are accepted during these hours of operation: Wednesdays: 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
To assist the South Hadley Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry volunteers collect the donated food at the War Memorial Building on Maple Street in Holyoke from 1:30 to 5 p.m., call (413) 530-8240.

What to donate to the Stamp Out Huger food drive for the NHN Food Pantry:

Fruit juice (low sugar)
Single serving fruit cups
Granola bars
Meat/chicken soups
Cream of mushroom soup
Beef stew
Baked beans
Boxed potatoes
Pork and beans
Refried beans
Canned ravioli/spaghetti
Spaghetti sauce
Soy infant formula
Toilet paper
Paper towels
Laundry, dish detergent
Hand soap
Reusable cloth bags