BLOOMINGTON — Central Illinoisans reached deeper into their kitchen cupboards last weekend to the benefit of their neighbors in need.
The 27th annual National Association of Letter Carriers' Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, which was Saturday, collected 55,000 pounds of nonperishable food from postal customers throughout the Bloomington-Normal area, Nikki Wilson reported Tuesday. She is a Bloomington-Normal letter carrier and a member of the food drive committee for letter carriers union Branch 522.
Of the 55,000 pounds, 42,000 pounds were collected in Bloomington-Normal, Wilson said.
During last year's disappointing drive, 45,000 pounds were collected throughout the area, including 37,000 pounds in Bloomington-Normal — a drop from the record-high 102,000 pounds, including 80,000 pounds in Bloomington-Normal, collected in 2017.
"We exceeded last year's totals," Wilson said. "We're definitely excited with the results."
"The blue bags seemed to work out really well ... especially given the rain," Wilson said, referring to the plastic grocery bags that some postal customers received to fill with food.
Postal customers left bags filled with nonperishable food at their mailboxes on Saturday. Letter carriers collected them and — with help from retired letter carriers and representatives of other labor unions — loaded donated food onto trucks from Midwest Food Bank.
Representatives of Bloomington-Normal area food pantries, including the St. Vincent de Paul Food and Clothing Pantry, will pick up the food at Midwest Food Bank to have for clients in need this summer.
"Those are good numbers," said Jim Tuite, a St. Vincent de Paul Food and Clothing Pantry volunteer.
Demand on food pantries increases during summer because some students aren't getting school lunches, Tuite said.
"We are extremely grateful to the community and the letter carriers for doing this," Tuite said of the food drive results.