Shared from the 5/13/2018 San Antonio Express eEdition

CARING AND SHARING

Mail carriers help food bank get donations

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Photos by Billy Calzada / San Antonio Express-News

Food is collected by U.S. Postal Service carriers for the San Antonio Food Bank as part of the Stamp Out Hunger campaign.

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Leaving nonperishable items outside your house is “probably the easiest way to make a donation” to the San Antonio Food Bank, its CEO, Eric Cooper, said.

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Billy Calzada / San Antonio Express-News

In honor of the city’s Tricentennial, officials at the food bank hoped this year’s Stamp Out Hunger drive would yield 300,000 pounds of donated food.

A mailman for 49 years, Burnie Miller has seen all kinds of people and neighborhoods in San Antonio, and knows that not everybody lives the same.

“There’s a lot of hungry people in this town, and we see a lot of people that don’t have everything, who live paycheck to paycheck,” Miller, a San Antonio native, said.

His experience led the 78-year-old to volunteer at the San Antonio Food Bank some 27 years ago, when it and a handful of other cities were just starting a little pilot program called Stamp Out Hunger.

Now, the nationwide campaign that partners food banks with the U.S. Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers union is the largest single-day food drive in the country. On Saturday, mail carriers across the city picked up residents’ donated food and took the bags to the 21 post offices or directly to the food bank.

“Letter carriers deliver rain, sleet and — well, we never really get snow here in San Antonio — but you know, they defy all weather to make sure we all get our parcels,” said Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank.

“So it just makes sense that using their expertise and logistics, we can get donated food from residents. It’s probably the easiest way to make a donation. You just set your nonperishables outside your house and let the letter carriers do the rest.”

Last year’s Stamp Out Hunger day, always held the second Saturday of May, yielded between 250,000 and 275,000 pounds of food. In honor of the San Antonio Tricentennial, Cooper said he’s hoping for at least 300,000 pounds this year.

The Food Bank serves 16 counties in Southwest Texas, partnering with 550 organizations and serving about 58,000 people each week. Saturday’s food drive accounts for 3 percent of their total food volume, Cooper said. He said the organization only spends 2 percent on overhead costs.

Peanut butter is in highest demand, followed by any kind of canned proteins, rice or pasta, and boxed dinners. The nonprofit tries to supply a balanced diet to its customers, heavy on produce such as tomatoes and cauliflower and light on what Cooper called “sometimes foods” like sweets and salty snacks. Malnutrition, Cooper said, is closely linked to poverty and food insecurity.

“If your body doesn’t get the food it needs it’ll always be in hunger,” Cooper said. “But we also believe all food has value — a birthday cake should still be served at a birthday.”

Forklifts bustled loudly through cavernous room after cavernous room in the San Antonio Food Bank on Saturday afternoon as trucks pulled up with tons of donated canned goods from local San Antonians. The staffers blasted pop music for the event as Miller waited for a chance to help with sorting the food. He’s been volunteering on this day ever since the campaign started.

“If we got something, why not share it with somebody else that needs it?” he said.

Cooper said San Antonio is at its best “when it’s sharing and caring.”

“And that’s the role the food bank plays,” he added. “We engage people in their finest hour, and that’s when they’re thinking less about themselves and more about others, and that’s a place we all want to live.”

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