For the first time, Dawson County will be participating in the largest one day food drive in the nation, Stamp Out Hunger, on May 9.
Created by the National Association of Letter Carriers in conjunction with the United States Postal Service, the 17th annual event simply asks for people to put non-perishable items in a bag next to their mailbox before the letter carrier arrives.
Food collected during the drive will be delivered to a local community food bank by the letter carrier once the mail delivery route has been completed.
All food items raised from the event will be donated to RIC Rack, a local food bank in Dawson County.
Nancy Stites, director of Dawson County Family Connection, stressed the importance of the food drive due to rising numbers of families and people in need.
“It is going to take the entire community to help the families who are struggling,” she said.
“I encourage people to not give this food drive any precedence over any other food drive efforts, please continue to give as much as you can and to as many food drive events that you can,” she added.
Stites noted that volunteers with trucks will be on standby for the letter carries in case they run out of room for the food in their vehicles.
Ken Newell, chairman of the board of RIC Rack, said that the food bank has seen over a 100 percent increase in food demands from last year.
“Last year we gave out about 58 tons of food to those in need. This year we are on track to do that much or more,” Newell said.
Newell said that the food bank has seen an increase in families to about 55 each
week, several of them coming month after month. He also added that the average family size is anywhere from three to four members up to 10, and that over 200 families asked for assistance from the food bank in the month of April.
“We really appreciate the community’s efforts thus far, especially Appalachian Community Bank’s food drive as well as the most recent donation of 800 articles from the Church of Latter-Day Saints,” said Newell.
Bindy Auvermann, executive director of the Dawson County Mentoring Program, said this food drive is important to the community, especially for the students.
“Almost 40 percent of students in the county are on free and reduced lunch plans for the month of March,” Auvermann said.
Auvermann said that out of about 3,400 total student enrollment, 1,001 students are receiving two free meals at school and 300 are getting meals at a reduced rate.
In March 2008, only 32 percent of the county’s students were among those getting free and reduced lunch rates.
“The amount of children living at the poverty level, those that are receiving free meals, is more than the total enrollment of students at the high school,” Auvermann said.
Auvermann and Stites both encouraged the community to continue food drive efforts throughout the summer, especially for school age children who were getting free meals at school who might have to do without until August.
“There will be more food drives and we will need the entire community each time a food drive takes place,” Stites said.
Stites said that the cooperation of the post office for the event was better than she had anticipated.
“Thank you again Dawson County. Everyone is stepping up to the plate, especially the mail carriers for this event. This will slow down their routes significantly and they are so gracious to agree to do this for the community. They deserve a big pat on the back,” Stites said.
Auvermann said that many families in the county are severely struggling to make ends meet.
“It’s hard enough to be in poverty, but it’s even harder to be hungry,” Auvermann said. “There is a big difference between struggling and having nothing.”
The Web site for the event, www.helpstampouthunger.com, states that 35 million Americans are hungry or living on the brink of hunger.
The event is locally sponsored by Dawson County Family Connection and Mentoring Program.
For more information, check with the post office or call Dawson County Family Connection and Mentoring Program at (706) 265-1981.
E-mail Elizabeth Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.