'Stamp Out Hunger:' Mail carriers to pick up food Saturday

Collecting food for the hungry will be Ridgefield’s letter carriers’ other job as they deliver mail on their appointed rounds Saturday.

The National Letter Carriers Association’s “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive, a one-day nationwide effort, is planned this Saturday, May 13. The crew at Ridgefield’s post office is hoping to improve upon last year’s results — which were a little disappointing.

“We were down to barely 6,000 pounds of food, compared to 12,000 we usually do,” said Brian Hamilton, the letter carrier who organizes the drive in Ridgefield. “It was a tough year last year, and we’ve been trying to figure out why.”

Ridgefield residents are being asked to leave cans and boxes of groceries at their mailboxes.

“Leave non-perishable food items, anything like soup, canned vegetables, dried goods like rice, pastas,” Hamilton said.

“We’ll take stuff that’s in glass, and pack it carefully, but really what we’re looking for is non-perishable stuff.

“If you’ve got a couple of cans, leave it in the mailbox,” he said.

The letter carriers do the pickup on their normal rounds of delivering mail, so food can be put out in the morning — before 10, for people near the start of routes — or left at the mailbox the night before.

“We start early in the morning, but we all hit the road about 10 a.m.,” Hamilton said.

“There’ll be 27 routes going out. We have rural routes and city carriers.”

The national postal carriers’ food drive has roots that go back 25 years.

“It started in a smaller post office out in the Midwest somewhere and then it grew and grew and grew,” Hamilton said.

“It wasn’t a very big thing in the beginning. It’s a union-based thing,” he said. “It started with just one post office just wanting to take care of their own.”

The food drive spread from one union local to another and grew into a statewide and then a national effort.

“It’s 15 years for Ridgefield,” Hamilton said.

“Most of the town really donates. A lot of times you drive up and there’s two ginormous plastic garbage bags full of stuff,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of people who donate tremendous amounts — they actually go out and shop.

“The people in town are just phenomenal when it comes to donations,” Hamilton said.

And there is need — yes, here in Ridgefield. “We all have this special bond with our customers. I see quite a bit of need out there,” Hamilton said. “As much as this is a wealthy town, there are a lot of seniors struggling. Just the taxes! Imagine what they get for Social Security, if they retired 20, 25 years ago.”

The food collected here is distributed locally — much of it in Danbury or in other nearby towns where there is need.