The San Joaquin Valley is a land of plenty: corn, peaches, onions or turkeys. Farmers and farm workers alike work hard to feed the nation.
Yet because of the drought, right here among us are people who go hungry every day: 46 million Americans, including one in five children, are at risk of hunger. To combat this situation, organizations band together in our communities to help those less fortunate.
On May 9 the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will conduct its annual food drive. This event, held each year on Mother’s Day weekend, will be its 23rd. It is the largest food drive in the country.
The NALC along with its national cosponsors, the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, United States Postal Service, United Way and Feeding America average over 70 million pounds a year in donations. Local cosponsors include Me-n-Ed’s Pizza (which donates food-drive bags), CBS Channel 47 and Univision Channel 21. We ask that you donate canned goods and nonperishables by placing them out by your mailbox for your letter carrier to pick up.
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If you will not be home on that Saturday, simply give it to your letter carrier at any time. Or you can drop it off at your local post office. What we like about this national effort is that the food donated in Merced stays in Merced The same goes for Parlier, Los Banos or Dinuba. The food stays in the community where it is donated.
We want to give just one example of a soup kitchen that benefits from your donations. In Madera, the Holy Family Table at Griffith Hall feeds an average of 350 every morning. On days when school is out, the number is well over 400, because children who would normally eat their meals in the school cafeteria are at home.
Local volunteers like the twins, Angie Espino and Lina Madril, (bless them!) come in to cook at 5:30 a.m. each morning. We start serving at 8 a.m. In one corner of the hall, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting starts. No one is asked to attend, but if you need it, it is there for you.
Joe Correa handles the food tray helping the disabled and women with small children. Don Jose Diaz and Nick Garcia pick up spilled milk and paper plates off of the floor and wipe down the tables.
The meals aren't blueberry pancakes, ham and eggs but usually oatmeal, beans and rice. Spaghetti is popular because it is cheap and you can feed a lot of people.
The patrons who come in each day are a mixed bag. Some are clearly homeless, coming in with their possessions in a bag. Women with children of all sizes come in to get a good meal. The kids always go for the drinks, whether it's grapefruit juice, lemonade or tea. They also don't care whether the pan dulce comes from the Bridge Store or La Taqueria Mexico.
On any given day, my friend and kitchen coordinator Art Salazar will get a call from someone wishing to donate bread or fruit. He will drive out to Warnock Food Products or Costco and pick stuff up. The food drives over Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular because it is a time of giving. But that food is long gone by May.
The NALC food drive comes at a good time because local pantries can then be restocked. Won't you do your part by donating food on May 9? Your letter carrier will deliver your mail and pick up food! What could be easier than that?
Thanks to all who have supported us before, and if you have an hour to spare, come to your local soup kitchen, we can always use an extra hand.