Despite his post office’s longstanding status as Alameda County’s top producer in the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Drive, Pleasanton postmaster Gurjant Khosa was taking no chances with the 17th annual version of the drive on May 9.
Battening the hatches against a battered economy, Khosa went to pains to promote the drive through local media and introduced a program in which each of his 65 letter carriers supplied biodegradable bags to their postal customers to fill with non-perishable food. He even convinced a local auto mall to promote the drive by flashing a message to passersby on I-580.
But it wasn’t until a few days after the drive that Khosa fully realized what his efforts had wrought.
“They called me after they transferred everything to the food bank truck and asked me if I wanted to have a look,” Khosa said. “When they opened the door, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Spilling out of the tractor-trailer was 25,770 pounds of food – virtually double the amount collected by Khosa’s carriers the year before. In Discovery Bay, postal carriers saw their donations increase by 111 percent over 2008.
So it went throughout the Bay Area, where 8,700 postal carriers from 145 post offices reaped a record haul of 909,812 pounds of food from postal patrons – 40.3 percent more than the 2008 drive.
“I have been around food banking long enough to think I have seen everything,” said Larry Sly, executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, “but I am constantly amazed at the incredible generosity our community shows through the Letter Carriers food drive.”
Several thousand pounds likely will be added to the total as the recipients of the bounty – the seven Bay Area Food Banks operating under the Feeding America banner – finalize their totals in the upcoming week.
“The results of this year’s drive are outstanding. Food banks are really feeling the pinch as more and more people seek food assistance,” said Keith Flagler, Interim CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. “This influx of food drive really helps us meet this need.”
Poundage for the nation’s largest one-day food drive had been trending downward since peaking in 2005. Bay Area Food Banks received 648,626 pounds from letter carriers in 2008. While the 2009 national totals won’t be announced by the carriers’ union until June 1, the May 9 collaboration dramatically reversed course on the drive’s direction in the Bay Area.
"The letter carriers have once again made it easy and possible for our community to give food – this year needed more than ever,” said David Goodman, executive director of Sonoma County’s Redwood Empire Food Bank. “We are grateful for their hard work and dedication to help us feed hungry people.”
Bay Area Food Banks have been swarmed by demand in 2009 as legions of the newly unemployed have swelled the ranks of the hungry.
“One postmaster told us there were bags of food lined up against the walls in apartment complexes and retirement homes, places where donations were virtually non-existent in previous years,” said Alameda County Community Food Bank executive director Suzan Bateson. “The generosity of residents living on fixed incomes – and many other donors – filled us with joy and gratitude.”
Added Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco Food Bank: “We appreciate the support of the community for their donations, as well as the dedication from the postal service to carry out this drive every year. As the economy worsens and more people look to Bay Area food banks for assistance, it is wonderful to see our neighbors step up their commitment to our programs.”
Alameda County Community Food Bank
Brian Higgins: (510) 636-4902 email@example.com
Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
Lisa Sherrill: (925) 676-7543 ext. 206 firstname.lastname@example.org
Redwood Empire (Sonoma County) Food Bank
Lee Bickley (707) 523-7900 ext 15 email@example.com
San Francisco Food Bank
Renske Van Staveren: (415) 282-1900 ext. 262 firstname.lastname@example.org
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties
Lynn Crocker: (408) 694-0044 email@example.com