Mail carriers will collect canned food for needy 'An easy way' to help others

February 21, 1993|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Staff Writer

Your mail carrier will be delivering something more than letters and packages soon. Indeed, a chance to do someone in need a good turn will be at your doorstep this week.

Tomorrow through Saturday, post office customers can donate food to the hungry by placing canned goods near their mailboxes. Letter carriers, in the course of their regular rounds, will pick up the nonperishable food and deliver it to the Maryland Food Bank as part of the Harvest for the Hungry Food Drive Campaign.

"Think of it as a very easy way to help the needy," said Larry Adam, founder of Harvest for the Hungry, a statewide network of volunteers that helps organize food drives.

Last year was the first time the post office here participated in the harvest program, and more than 1.3 million food items were collected, said Michael Matousek, employee involvement facilitator for the U.S. Postal Service's Baltimore district. Nationwide, other postal districts have participated in similar food drives with similar success.

"Let's face it, we do have the unique ability to deal with this kind of service on an individual basis," he said.

Already this year, postal employees, who began making their personal donations early, have amassed about 150,000 food items.

Fliers explaining how to participate in the campaign have been ++ sent to 1.5 million postal customers in the Baltimore district, which encompasses most of Maryland, Mr. Matousek said. If leaving donations at the mailbox isn't possible, receptacles in local post offices will be available so people can drop off food while buying stamps or mailing packages.

Aside from sheer convenience, an appealing element of the letter-carrier food drive is that "if collected in Baltimore, the food goes to the needy in Baltimore. If it's collected in Cumberland, it goes to the needy in Cumberland," Mr. Matousek said. "People )) feel more involved that way."

Harvest for the Hungry, which was founded in 1987 by Mr. Adam, a senior vice president for investments at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., is a network of volunteers that helps other community-based groups organize food drives.

"It started as a group of people who wanted to do something to help people around the holidays and then after the holidays, we realized that Christmas was over, yet hunger was not," Mr. Adam said.

Throughout the year, participants include a spectrum of organizations from the Internal Revenue Service and the Coast Guard to elementary school students and Girl Scouts, he said.

The concept behind Harvest for the Hungry appeals to such diverse groups because each is allowed to choose and organize its own method of gathering food, he said.

"Everybody knows that a lot of people are hurting out there," he said.

Members of the food bank hope particularly to receive canned goods such as fruits, vegetables, meats or soups, said Bill Ewing, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank.

"In this case, we are asking for canned items because they will get jostled around while being carried," he said.

"Every time you hear stories about layoffs, that means in six months we'll see a greater demand for food," Mr. Ewing said. "Food comes in one day and is gone the next. We are distributing more food now than we did last year at this time -- but the more we have, the more we give away."

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