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BLOOMINGTON — Central Illinois food pantries will have a more difficult time providing food to people in need this summer after an annual food drive collected less than half of what it collected last year.

The 26th annual National Association of Letter Carriers' Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, which was Saturday, collected about 45,000 pounds of nonperishable food from postal customers throughout the Bloomington-Normal area, Kim Marshall reported Tuesday. She is a Bloomington letter carrier and food drive coordinator for the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 522 union.

Of the 45,000 pounds, 37,000 pounds were collected in Bloomington-Normal.

Food collected in Bloomington-Normal will be distributed to Twin City food pantries. Food collected outside Bloomington-Normal will go to the nearest food pantry.

"A very special thanks to those who gave and to the letter carriers who made the generosity possible," said Pat Turner of Center for Hope Food Pantry, among food pantries that get food from the drive.

"I want people to know that there are people who may have a difficult time getting through this summer," Turner said. "We rely on this drive to help get us through a challenging time during the summer" when demand on food pantries increases because students are out of school.

"But that opportunity to share to help families exists all year long," Turner said.

Marshall hopes that donations will rise again next year if the union local can get sponsors for bags for residents to use for donated food.

"I'm disappointed but I feared this would happen," Marshall said of donations being down.

She said numbers are down because the local was not able to find sponsors to donate $3,200, which would have allowed the local to provide 54,000 paper grocery bags for residents to use for their donations.

"The numbers were down all over (Central Illinois)," she said. "Decatur also didn't have bags this year and they showed a decline.

"The grocery sacks are what make a successful food drive," because they remind postal customers of the drive and make it easier for people when they don't have to provide their own bags.

"I want to thank the people who did donate," Marshall said. "We will work harder to get sponsors for food drive bags next year."

Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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