Ten-year-old water chestnuts – really?The National Association of Letter Carriers sponsored its 19th Annual NALC National Food Drive a couple of weeks ago, with our local letter carriers and an impressive host of back-up volunteers once again participating. The food collected was delivered to the area food shelf to help out local families in need at a time of year when the holiday stockpiles begin to dwindle and children are headed home for the summer.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The National Association of Letter Carriers sponsored its 19th Annual NALC National Food Drive a couple of weeks ago, with our local letter carriers and an impressive host of back-up volunteers once again participating. The food collected was delivered to the area food shelf to help out local families in need at a time of year when the holiday stockpiles begin to dwindle and children are headed home for the summer.
The annual food drive, the largest of its kind in the nation, has been an amazing success over the years. More than 1 billion pounds of food donations have been collected by letter carriers since the NALC Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive began in 1993, and a record 77.1 million pounds were collected last year alone.
The good news about this year’s event is that
Cloquet-area residents donated some 14,000 pounds of food, a significant increase over last year’s 12,500 pounds.
The bad news – almost half of the non-perishable food items collected had already passed their expiration date.
According to local letter carrier Colleen Pederson, residents who donate food items or toiletries are always asked in advance to be mindful of the expiration dates of the goods they are donating – any expired food items must be discarded.
And so, nearly half of the food collected locally had to be thrown away. That is a catastrophe of near-epic proportions for both those who worked so hard to collect it – and especially for those who depend on the local food shelf for a much-needed boost for their families every now and then when there is little or no money to put food on the table.
It’s unlikely that anyone donates expired goods intentionally. More likely, it’s due to the classic scenario that many of us will no doubt recognize. You know the food drive is coming up, but when something suddenly jogs your memory the night before, you dash to your cupboard to look for things to fill the bag you received from your mail carrier several days in advance. While some are highly conscientious about giving the types of things that are most in demand, many others no doubt go for the things that have been sitting unused in the cupboard for an extended length of time – the water chestnuts you once bought for that Chinese hot dish you never quite got around to making, the pickled beets that never quite made it to the table, the can of cream of mushroom soup that keeps getting shuffled to the back of the shelf.
While some will likely check the expiration dates, others obviously do not.
That leaves a gaping hole in what might have otherwise been a highly successful campaign and a much-needed boost to the local food shelf.
There’s not only a lesson to be learned in all of this, but some ground to be made up as well. And while your local letter carrier cannot pick up food donations outside of that one day in May, let’s hope that the rest of us will dig a little deeper and help fill up those shelves that remain empty.
Goods can be dropped off at the Salvation Army, 316 Carlton Ave., Cloquet, between the hours of
8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
It’s never too late to help out.