Letter carriers in more than 10,000 communities across America will join forces to help stamp out hunger.

On Saturday, postal employees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands will collect nonperishable food items and deliver them to local community food banks, pantries and shelters across the country. They will be participating in the National Association of Letter Carriers food drive, the world's largest annual single-day food drive.

An estimated 35 million people are at risk of hunger in America, including 12 million children. In late spring, most food banks begin running out of donations received during the holiday period. This drive is one way people can join the U.S. Postal Service to help stamp out hunger right in their own community.

Longtime supporters of the drive include the U.S. Postal Service, Campbell Soup Company, America's Second Harvest, Cox Target Media, local United Ways and the AFL-CIO Community Services Network. The drive is an outgrowth of the tradition of community service letter carriers have established over the years, whether by watching over the elderly through the Carrier Alert program, assisting the American Red Cross during times of disaster or victims of fires, crime and other mishaps.

Customers are asked to place bags of nonperishable food items such as canned soup, canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal next to their mailbox before the Ayer letter carriers deliver the mail on Saturday.


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The letter carrier will do the rest, taking the food to the post office, where it is sorted and delivered to Loaves & Fishes food pantry.

Last year, carriers collected more than 70 million pounds of food donations -- the ninth consecutive year that the 70-million-pound mark was eclipsed. Nearly 1.2 billion pounds of food have been collected since the first drive in 1993.

Join me and the many postal employees nationwide by supporting this endeavor, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Now more than ever, local food banks are strained because the economy is affecting large numbers of families and they can not keep up with the demand.

Any donation is worthwhile and appreciated so please contribute and help the less fortunate.

GARY LUCA

Ayer postmaster