The second largest food drive in Clark County has been postponed due to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The National Association of Letter Carriers announced Friday it would postpone the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, originally set for May 9.
During the springtime drive, which is always held the second Saturday in May, letter carriers pick up food donations during their normal mail delivery routes. Organizers were faced with deadlines for ordering donation bags and had to make a decision, said Don Young, who heads up the local drive in Clark County.
A new date has not been set, but the National Association of Letter Carriers and its partners “are fully committed to rescheduling the food drive later in 2020,” the association said on its website.
Young, a retired letter carrier, said there was only one other time in the last 28 years that the letter carriers’ drive didn’t occur as scheduled.
“Our goal is to still have it this year,” he said. “This is the most crucial time that we really need it.”
With many businesses shut down, people are losing their jobs and need emergency food now more than ever, but there are risks and challenges inherit in collecting food during an outbreak. Between delivering the donation bags to collecting donations to bringing them to the food bank, there are a lot of touch points and ways for disease to spread.
Alan Hamilton, president of the Clark County Food Bank, said the letter carriers’ drive brings in about 110,000 to 120,000 pounds of food annually. It’s second only to Walk & Knock but comes at a time of year when the food bank sees fewer donations.
Demand for emergency food is increasing. Meanwhile, the food bank is collecting less food through its grocery store recovery program. To fill in the gaps, the food bank is purchasing food for emergency food boxes that are delivered to senior living communities, food pantries and hotels where homeless families are staying. (Homeless clients are receiving ready-made food.)
“Most of our food is donated, so that’s a shift for us,” Hamilton said of purchasing food.
Additional food sources could come from the Washington State Department of Agriculture or the Feeding America program. Hamilton also expects grocery store recovery to pick back up once store shelves are full again.
Despite the sad circumstances, the food bank has seen positive examples of people banding together to address the problem. Healthy high school kids are volunteering. Laid off warehouse workers are using their expertise at the food bank. AmeriCorps volunteers are pulling orders and handing out food boxes.
C-Tran and Big Al’s Specialty Movers are helping deliver emergency food boxes around the county. Groups are coming in every day to sanitize the warehouse.
At one point they even got food to someone who needed it in Clark County, Nev., and contacted the wrong food bank.