Oxford-Orion FISH Vice President Julie Howald (left) and Vicky Haist, food drive coordinator for the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 320, are encouraging residents to participate in the 26th Annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, May 12 by leaving canned goods and other non-perishable food items by their mailboxes. The plaques they’re holding were earned by NALC Branch 320 in 2016 and 2017 for collecting the most food for a branch its size. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
Imagine what it’s like to not know where your next meal is coming from.
Imagine what it’s like to not have the cash to simply grab something from the grocery store, pop into a downtown restaurant for a bite or even order a pizza.
Imagine what it’s like to look into your children’s eyes and have nothing to offer them when they tell you they’re hungry.
Unfortunately, there are people in the Oxford area who don’t have to imagine these painful scenarios because they face them every day as they struggle to make ends meet.
These aren’t faceless, nameless people living in some far away place.
They’re people you pass on the street. They’re neighbors. They’re fellow parents. They’re kids waiting at the bus stop. They’re senior citizens. They’re friends.
An opportunity to help them is happening this weekend and all folks have to do is leave a little something next to their mailboxes.
On Saturday, May 12, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will conduct its 26th Annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Last year’s drive collected 75 million pounds.
Oxford and Addison residents are encouraged to leave canned goods and other nonperishable food items (no glass jars, please) by their mailboxes that day.
Please make sure the food is not past its expiration date and place it in the paper bags that will be provided to postal customers, cloth bags or sturdy cardboard boxes.
Letter carriers from the Oxford Post Office, along with volunteers, will come by to collect these donations between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
All of the food gathered by the Oxford and Lake Orion post offices will be used to stock the shelves of the Oxford-Orion food pantry.
“It’s our largest food drive of the year,” said Julie Howald, pantry contact and vice president of the FISH board.
Last year, Stamp Out Hunger collected 40,417 pounds of food for FISH – 13,851 pounds from the Oxford Post Office and 26,566 from the Lake Orion Post Office.
“I think the warm weather helped us last year,” said Vicky Haist, food drive coordinator for NALC Branch 320, which consists of 12 post offices, including Oxford and Lake Orion, that serve approximately 250,000 residents.
For the past two years, Branch 320 has been recognized for collecting the most food for a branch its size. It amassed 319,253 pounds last year and 260,096 in 2016.
“We’re trying for a third year,” said Haist, who worked as a letter carrier for the Oxford Post Office from 1984 until her retirement in 2015.
To help make the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive a success locally, four sponsors – Genisys Credit Union, McLaren Oakland, Advanced Disposal and Greater Pontiac Host Committee – each donated $2,500 to purchase 170,000 paper bags for postal customers to fill with food items, according to Haist.
These bags were to be left inside mailboxes on May 9. “We figured with these bags, we can get between 15 and 20 percent more food if (donors) use them. They’re bigger than the plastic bags we have used before,” Haist said. “They seem to be a little bit more sturdy than the paper bags you get at the grocery stores.”
“It doesn’t cost too much to fill a bag and put it by your mailbox,” Howald noted. “The letter carrier will do the work for you.”
Howald is hoping for another record haul this year. “Last year, it took us a good week to sort it all, to get it put away and organized, because there was so much. We had never had 40,000 pounds before,” she said. “With the larger bags (this year), they’re hoping for an increase of 20 percent. That would be awesome. Even a 10 percent increase would be great. Any increase, really.”
Since 1973, FISH has been providing free emergency groceries to families, individuals and senior citizens who need help because they are living on low or fixed incomes, or they have fallen on hard times due to unemployment, illness or other personal crises.
“Not everyone is as lucky as we are,” Howald said.
The nonprofit organization serves residents of Oxford, Orion and Addison townships, as well as their respective villages, along with a small portion of Oakland Township.
Last year, FISH distributed a total of 181,890 pounds of food to an average of 164 households, or 369 individuals, per month.
“It could happen to anyone – lose a job (or) get a serious illness, then you need some assistance,” Howald said.
Haist noted food banks and pantries, like FISH, not only provide sustenance, they give “comfort” to those in need by letting them “know that they’re not alone.”
Although all food donations are appreciated, Howald noted FISH currently has more than enough canned vegetables, so it would be great if people could donate other items.
For example, FISH could use canned fruit, cereal, canned pasta, peanut butter and jelly, canned meat such as chicken and tuna, condiments, breakfast bars and energy bars.
Howald wished to remind people to please make sure the food they’re donating is not past its expiration date. “We don’t put expired food on our shelves,” she said. “A good 25 to 30 percent of the (donated) food is expired.”
FISH needs volunteers to help sort the donations between 1 and 6 p.m. on May 12. Volunteers can work at either FISH’s pantry (487 First St. in Thomas) or its temporary storage building located at 3637 Lakeville Rd.
Volunteers with trucks and trailers are also needed May 12 to transport food from the Oxford Post Office to the pantry. Contact email@example.com for more info.