Saturday, May 11 was Stamp Out Hunger, a food drive coordinated by the National Association of Letter Carriers. You may have received a postcard or a plastic bag in your mailbox asking you to leave a bag of non-perishable food items by your mailbox. It would be picked up by your letter carrier and taken back to the post office where it would get sorted and transferred to your local food bank.
In Indianapolis, that’s Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.
When I saw a post on Facebook about Stamp Out Hunger, I got motivated. I picked up some canned goods and boxed products to leave at my mailbox and I started to research if there were any volunteer opportunities related to the drive. Somebody has to organize all of this food, right? Volunteering for a food bank seemed like one way I could get involved in the community and feel a connection to what I was doing. I’d been looking for some food pantries or kitchens where I could cook, but I haven’t taken that on yet.
You also may have read my Food Bloggers Against Hunger post, where I shared a recipe for $4 pizza in an effort to educate my audience about how some families live off of $4 a day through the SNAP program. Could you imagine living off of $4 a day?
IndyHub had a page on their website about the opportunities to sort food at the post offices. After reviewing what options were available (my neighborhood post office was not on the list), I chose Lawrence at 46226. Only 5 minutes away, Lawrence was a completely unknown neighborhood to me. I had hoped to volunteer in my community so that I could see the direct difference my neighbors made, but in the end, our station brought in so much food it didn’t really matter where it came from anymore.
From 3-8pm, I shuffled on a platform, sorting canned goods, boxes and bags, and glass containers into large, cardboard boxes set on skids for easy lifting by a forklift.
For a while, it was pretty slow. We were alerted that the majority of the trucks would come in later, sous volunteers chatted about… well, volunteering, and killed time until the work drove in. In the meantime, one of the letter carriers named Frank brought up a charcoal grill and started preparing some hot dogs, complete with buns, ketchup, relish, mustard and sliced pickles. You never expect much as a volunteer, but this was a very nice gesture. While I had every intention of holding out until we were done so I could make dinner, you know I ate a good grilled hot dog with ketchup and relish.
Frank also gave us cool “Stamp Out Hunger” pins.
Once the trucks showed up, we helped the letter carriers get it out of their truck and onto the platform for sorting. Each bag was a mystery of items, holding cans, boxes and glass, so we had to tear each bag open and sort the items into the cardboard boxes.
Every bag was unique. Some had things I recognized and expected, while others were shockingly interesting and filled with food I would have never thought to share, like formula and baby food. Boxes and cans of coconut milk, sardines and whole bag of vegan cane sugar were some of the most interesting.
Others were typical but I enjoyed seeing them pile up – peanut butter, V-8, applesauce, canned green beans and corn, cereal, Kraft Mac N Cheese, and dry pasta, to name a few.
And seriously, things piled up. When they say “every little bit counts,” it really does. After the first hour, we had to start a new box of canned goods because it was piling up and bulging. If you can imagine standing next to a large cardboard box that’s about a yard or so tall, enough that you feel you may fall into it and get trapped under the mound of food.
So, how much impact was made during Stamp Out Hunger 2013 in Indianapolis?
THE LAWRENCE STATION WHERE I WAS AT BROUGHT IN 15,060 POUNDS OF FOOD AND AN AMAZING 139,072 POUNDS WAS BROUGHT INTO GLEANERS OVERALL!
How amazing is that! I was told that a few donations come in the following days, which makes sense – someone tweeted to me asking where to take their food because they forgot to leave it in the mailbox. If that happened to you, take it to Gleaners!
I had a great time volunteering and would definitely do it again. I encourage you to take a few hours (yes, you can find a few hours if you try) and volunteer at something that’s meaningful to you.