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(Photo courtesy Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank)
Retired postal worker Chuck Jarrell will be up before 6 a.m. this Saturday, buying dozens of donuts for his former colleagues at the McKeesport post office.
"I like to get them all sugared-up before they go out," he says, joking.
Saturday is a special day for the men and women of the McKeesport post office --- and post offices around the country --- as the National Association of Letter Carriers will be running its 26th annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
Since 1993, the food drive organized by the postal workers' union has collected 1.6 billion --- that's 1,600,000,000 --- pounds of food for the needy and hungry.
All of the food collected in the Mon-Yough area stays in the Mon-Yough area, says Jarrell, a postal worker for 35 years before his retirement, with much of it being delivered to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank for distribution to local food pantries.
The two branches of the Letter Carriers' union serving Western Pennsylvania have collected 1.23 million pounds of food since 1993, Jarrell says. "There's no other food drive that even comes close," he says.
The food drive is looking for non-perishable items, he says, and cannot accept items packed in glass. Foods that are high in protein are best, Jarrell says --- peanut butter, tuna and canned meat --- but soups, spaghetti and macaroni are also welcome.
"Toiletries are really sought after and needed," he says. "Hygiene items like soap and toothpaste --- if you're having a problem and you need help, that's an expense," and electronic food benefits won't pay for such items.
Specially marked brown-paper grocery bags have been distributed to thousands of households, Jarrell says, but any grocery bag can be used. The items should be placed near the mail box before the letter carrier arrives, he says, and a volunteer or the carrier will collect them.
"In McKeesport, we're very lucky to get help from lots of people --- we have retirees, churches, the Lions Club and other volunteers," he says. If letter carriers alone were picking up donations while doing their "appointed rounds," they wouldn't be able to get everything, Jarrell says.
If someone wants to donate and doesn't have a mailbox, or collects their mail at a post-office box, or simply wants to make things easier for their carrier on Saturday, Jarrell says they can bring their items to the nearest post office.
"You don't even have to wait in line," he says, "just take it to the counter and put it on the counter."
For more information about the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, visit www.stampouthungerfooddrive.us. Photo courtesy Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Originally published May 08, 2018.