May 13, 2014
By Beth Borzone
Long Island, NY – Whether it was refried beans or New England Clam Chowder, Long Islanders throughout Nassau and Suffolk left canned goods and non-perishable food items by their mailboxes on Saturday, May 10th to support the 22nd annual food drive, Stamp Out Hunger, organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).
“Many people in this country still go hungry every day,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, “We are honored to be able to help people in need by leading an effort that brings out the best in so many Americans. Six days a week, letter carriers see first-hand the needs in the communities where we work, and we’re committed to helping people meet those needs.”
Indeed, the need for food has dramatically increased on Long Island in recent years. Over 320,000 Long Islanders, 118,000 of whom are children, need food assistance, according to Long Island Care’s executive director, Paule T. Pachter, and government affairs and public policy coordinator, Michael Haynes, who advocated for the hungry in an Op-Ed published in Newsday back in February. Pachter and Haynes also stated that Long Island food pantries have seen a 10%-25% increase in people needing food since the federal government cut assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in November.
“More and more people are using the pantries every year, said Tom Siesto, Vice-President of the Long Island Merged Branch 6000, National Association of Letter Carriers. Last year Hurricane Sandy caused an increased demand, he said, and this year, it’s the number of people out of work because of the poor economy. Whenever Siesto visits a food pantry at lunch or dinner time, it’s full, he said.
While the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive will not cure the hunger problem on Long Island, which has been exacerbated by the Great Recession of 2009, it will certainly assist many Long Islanders who are experiencing hunger now.
While the amount of food collected this year is still being tallied, last year the letter carriers collected over 340,000 pounds of food.
“We’re still getting tractor trailers delivering to the warehouse,” Siesto said, “It seems like we collected a lot of food.”
Twenty two years ago, the National Association of Letter Carriers came up with the idea to have a food drive the second Saturday in May because in the summer months, schools are closed and children who are fed in school, need to be fed at home, which causes an increase need for the food pantries, Siesto said.
Since the Stamp Out Hunger food drive began 22 years ago, the Letter Carriers have helped collect about 19,485,749 pounds of food, but that doesn’t include this year’s collection yet.
The collected food will be brought to Island Harvest for distribution to it’s food pantries and food banks.
“All food collected on Long Island, stays on Long Island,” Siesto said.