Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Collects Thousands for Area Pantries

Food Drive Keeps Shelves Stocked Through Summer

On May 19, letter carriers across the country picked up food donations left by mailboxes to help “Stamp Out Hunger” in communities.

Soup or Socks and St. Vincent de Paul are two local food pantries that benefit from the drive each year. This year, the drive collected 14,978 pounds of unexpired food. These will be split between the two organizations.

“I would say it’s a good year,” said Cheryl Lewis Hartl, Soup or Socks Director. “It’ll help a lot.”

Food items are sorted at Oak Avenue Community Center.

Both pantries see their shelves empty toward the end of spring, so food donations like Stamp Out Hunger, along with the April Scouting for Food drive by the Boy Scouts, are vital to keep the shelves stocked for families in need.

“We really depend on these two spring food drives to get us through the summer,” said Deb Steltenpohl, director of outreach services at St. Vincent de Paul. “By September we’re hurting, because I would say 90 percent of this will be gone by then.”

Neither pantry sets a goal for the drive, but is thankful for any donations they receive to help area families. This summer, a portion of the donations will go toward a summer food program for families enrolled in the Nutrition on Weekends (NOW) program through Marshfield Area United Way.

Stamp Out Hunger food drive volunteers sort items on Monday, May 14.

Around 75 volunteers helped sort the thousands of donated food items at the Oak Avenue Community Center on the day of the drive. Most worked at least two hours, Lewis Hartl said, around 150 hours of volunteer work, and resumed on Monday to finish the rest with clean-up on Tuesday.

“Volunteer-wise, I think we had a really good turnout,” said Steltenpohl. “We’re really fortunate for the volunteers we got.”

She said one unknown person donated two minivan-sized loads of produce and dry goods, two of each item, since the organizations split the donations. “They must know how much we need those items, so it’s just amazing!”

Food items are sorted by category and by date, so that items expiring in 2018 are used first. Of the total 16,910 pounds collected, 1,932 pounds (11 percent) of the food was expired and therefore unusable.

Such figures are a source of disappointment for organizers. “We do appreciate the donations, but please understand it’s something we cannot use,” said Lewis Hartl.

When it comes to stocking the shelves, staples like pasta, oatmeal, rice, and vegetables go the quickest. “Pasta is a big thing that we always run out of,” she said. “We try to give people stuff that they can go home and actually make a meal.”

Besides donating food, both pantries gladly accept monetary donations. “If we are low on something, we have that money to go and purchase,” said Steltenpohl. “It helps so much.”

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