Pine Bluff residents stepped up big during this May’s National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day, donating more than 89,000 items of non-perishable food items and surpassing all of the organization’s Arkansas counterparts, according to an NALC representative.


Launched as a pilot program in October 1991, the National Association of Letter Carriers created a specific day of the year dedicated to collecting non-perishable food items that would be sorted and distributed to a food bank in the area.


Although the organization has been sponsoring the event for over 20 years, food drive coordinators in each participating city work diligently to spread the word and encourage the community to tap into their giving spirits.


Much like Roy Hunter, food drive coordinator for Pine Bluff, White Hall, and Oak Park Branch, who said he reached out to the community with newspaper announcements, radio advertisements, posts on bulletin boards and through word-of-mouth.


Hunter’s work leading up to May 12’s wide-spread food collection day managed to draw in 89,810 donations for Pine Bluff alone. This total trumped other Arkansas cities such as Hot Springs, which pulled in 66,400, and Little Rock, which raised 84,991 donations, according to NALC Headquarters.


“This just shows that if you get out and talk with the community, they will help,” Hunter said. “It shows how much love we have for the community.”


There was no initial goal set for the area for this year’s food drive; however, Hunter expressed that each year his goal is to do better than the last one.


“I want to thank Vicky Vinson. She got the bags we used to collect the donations,” Hunter said. “The bags cost money, and she was willing to help. She was the coordinator two years ago, she’s retired now, but she really left a good foundation.”


After reviewing the results from Pine Bluff’s donations, Hunter was content with how much love the “heart of the community” had to show during the one-day food drive.


“I think we really set the bar high and showed them that we really can help the community,” Hunter said.


During the pilot program in 1991, mail carriers in 10 cities were allotted the task of picking up these food donations that were left in or near mailboxes while they completed their normal routes in the neighborhood.


After witnessing the program’s initial success, the NALC decided to move forward with the implementation of the new annual event and moving the day to the springtime when local food banks usually have trouble meeting demands due to the passing of the holiday season.


Over the course of the food drive’s 25 years in operation, it has become the largest one-day food drive in the nation, operating the second Saturday in May with some 10,000 cities and towns from all 50 states currently participating.


Efforts surrounding the NALC Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive have resulted in the deliverance of 1 billion pounds of food to needy families across the country, and earned the organization two Presidential Certificates of Achievement.


The NALC Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day will return next spring on May 11. For those interested in volunteering to sort donations during the food drive, visit NALC.org or USPS.com for more information about the program.