Last week, letter carriers across Washtenaw County collected non-perishable food items from residents’ homes as part of the nationwide Stamp Out Hunger
The drive, which took place on Saturday, May 14, is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers
(NALC) union, and all donations made in Washtenaw County will be distributed by Food Gatherers
through a number of partner programs across the county. The drive, which is historically Food Gatherers’ biggest of the year, is returning from a two-year hiatus enacted by the NALC due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In May of 2020, people weren't even supposed to be leaving our homes — we were sheltering in place. Then I think that maybe last year the public health conditions just still didn't feel quite safe enough,” says Food Gatherers Chief Development Officer Helen Starman.
Starman says the pandemic has greatly impacted food insecurity in Washtenaw County.
“It was sort of this perfect storm of people losing their income, supply chain shortages, and people not being able to leave their homes to shop or go to distributions,” she says. “By the end of 2020, food security had really spiked in Washtenaw County. Our partner pantries were telling us they were seeing a 30% to 300% increase in need.”
Additionally, she says, during the height of the pandemic, 40% of those using food resources from Food Gatherers’ partners had never used them before. Though the increased need has been slowing down, Food Gatherers is anticipating further negative effects of high inflation rates, record-high fuel costs, and supply chain issues sweeping the nation.
“It's kind of like a 360-degree whammy,” Starman says. “For people who have limited resources, food now costs more when they go to the grocery store … and then on our end, expenses have gone up too.”
That makes the return of the Stamp Out Hunger drive particularly significant, and this year’s turnout is looking positive so far.
“Our preliminary number is almost 87,000 pounds, but we anticipate it will go over that,” says Starman. “We haven’t counted all of the food that our partner organizations collected yet.”
Sabine Bickford Brown is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art courtesy of National Association of Letter Carriers and Food Gatherers.