17 tons collected in postal food drive

by Town Reminder

17 tons collected in postal food drive
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Locals sure went postal for this year’s Stamp Out Hunger food drive hosted by The National Association of Letter Carriers [NALC], donating a total of 17 tons of non-perishables on May 12.
By the numbers, South Hadley residents donated 8,000 pounds of food and Holyoke residents donated 6,000 pounds. The totals remained the same as those collected last year, which South Hadley Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry Director Carol Issacson found surprising, “given many charitable organizations have been seeing a reduction in all sorts of donations given the economic climate,” she said. Surprised, but still completely thankful, Isakson said these numbers were “encouraging.”
Last year, the local Western Mass Branch 46 of the NALC collected and distributed more than 230,000 pounds of food. Providence Ministries, based in Holyoke, and the South Hadley Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry, will divvy up this year’s donated goods between their organizations.
“Many thanks go to Providence Ministries for their fantastic organization of this drive and for asking NHN to participate,” said Isakson. “And a huge thank you to the many volunteers who made this drive possible.”
In 2011, a total of 70.2 million pounds of donated food were collected across the nation, making it the eighth consecutive year in which at least 70 million pounds of food were collected.
“The Postal Service is pleased to continue supporting the National Association of Letter Carriers as we enter our twentieth year together to help Stamp Out Hunger in America,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.
About 50 million Americans — including 17 million children — now live in families that lack sufficient food. In South Hadley, about six percent of residents lived in poverty in 2000, and with today’s economy, that number has surely risen.
Since its creation in January of 2011, the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry has served a client base that is steadily growing. In the first three months of it being in operation, 73 families, comprised of 193 members, were assisted nutritionally. There were a 434 total visits to the food pantry with 2,574 meals served to clients. Currently, approximately two to four new families sign up at the food pantry each week.
The food pantry is open three times each week. Twice on Wednesday – its busiest day – and once on Saturday. Clients receive two days worth of food for every person in their family for a two-week period. A number of clients have storage issues with limited space or do not have a vehicle to transport more days of food. When there are more donations to doll out, the clients receive more days worth of food. During the last Bag The Community event, so many donations were collected the food pantry was able to provide four days worth of food for every person in a family.
Recently, the pantry has merged with the St. Theresa’s Church food pantry, due to higher gas prices and operational costs. Now, the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry is regularly providing food four 120-140 households.
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 a new phone number -(413) 530-8240. Donations are accepted during their hours of operation: Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.