Mail carriers work to stamp out hunger

Business was booming for Claremont/LaVerne letter carriers last Saturday during the 21st annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. A record 40,000 pounds of food was collected, according to area mail carrier Joe Marlow.

Businesses comprise a third of Mr. Marlow’s route, one of 60 serving the 2 cities. Despite the fact that he attends to fewer residences than many of his colleagues, his truck was still filled to bursting with donations, a telling sign of the event’s success. He heard from Upland mail carriers that it was also their city’s best year ever.

The food drive, a nationwide endeavor organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers union, represents considerable effort, Mr. Marlow admits. Along with their usual routine of letter delivery, collection and sorting, mail carriers load up their vehicles with countless bags of food. Once they get to the post office, they separate the food by category—canned and boxed nonperishable—in preparation for it to be distributed by local churches and nonprofits. 

The mail carriers’ loads are lightened by knowing all the good they are doing, however.

“It’s our hardest day but also our most fulfilling day,” Mr. Marlow said.

Life is full of ironies, and the local Stamp Out Hunger drive is no exception. Over the years, Mr. Marlow has been surprised to discover that it is often those with the most economic challenges who are the most willing to give.

“We get the most response from residents of the local trailer parks,” Mr. Marlow said. “We have the best participation at the south end of the city and as we move southward, it gets worse and worse.”

That’s not to say that no one north of the freeway Claremont gives, he emphasized. Most notably, there are about 10 north Claremont families who really throw themselves into the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Often, their porch will be crammed with groceries.

“They’ll go to Costco and spend a couple hundred bucks each year,” Mr. Marlow said. 

Mr. Marlow and his fellow mail carriers are excited to see how the food drive has grown over the years, and hope they can up their tally further next year. Sometimes, people are discouraged from participating because they assume that the food they donate will be shipped to another community, like downtown Los Angeles.

“The thing people really need to know is that all this food goes to local pantries,” Mr. Marlow said.

Local beneficiaries of the collected food included the San Gabriel-based People for People food bank, which distributes food to churches and nonprofit agencies across the San Gabriel Valley, and the La Verne food pantry Sowing Seeds for Life, which distributes food to more than 6000 families in need each month.

Did you miss the food drive? No problem. Postal carriers always continue to collect food from philanthropic stragglers a couple weeks after the day of the food drive, which takes place every year on the day before Mother’s Day. You can just leave a bag or bags filled with nonperishable foods on your parch, with a note indicating it is for the postal food drive.

 “We never say no,” Mr. Marlow said. 

—Sarah Torribio


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