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Stamp Out Hunger was a big success

MILLINOCKET – A whopping 2,400-plus pounds of non-perishable food was collected in Millinocket last Saturday (May 11) during the annual National Association of Letter Carriers’27th annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive with donations continuing to flow in during the late afternoon even after the food drive had concluded.

This year’s collection total far exceeded those of the three previous years. Those totals hovered in the 1,700 pound range. That means that this year many of those residing in Millinocket’s more than 2,000 occupied homes responded generously to the critical need for food donations.

To put the amount of food collected into some kind of context think of how much a saltwater crocodile weighs or a Clydesdale horse weighs or a black rhinoceros weighs – 2,000 pounds and sometimes more.

These non-perishable food donations go directly to St. Martin’s Food Pantry of
Millinocket, an outreach program open to eligible residents of the Katahdin area regardless of their religious affiliation.

This food drive is an important source of food for the St. Martin’s Pantry. In April alone, during the four days the pantry was open, the pantry distributed 4,682 pounds of food during 106 visits by 72 families, serving 220 persons.

Other food donations come throughout the year from the Katahdin Federal Credit Union, Millinocket Baptist Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, parishioners and other individuals. The pantry also receives financial support from St. Martin’s Thrift Store.

Nearly 10 men, some of whom are members of the Knights of Columbus Council, others interested volunteers, were involved with the collection process with letter carrier Stephen Manzo spearheading the drive. Another nearly one dozen people were involved in the weighing, inspecting and sorting of donations, plus restocking pantry shelves.

A helping hand also came from Dante Malaspino, a senior at Stearns High School, who was performing the community service his school requires. But, more importantly, he said, he was doing so because he “likes helping people out.” He will expand on that after graduation by enlisting in the Coast Guard to earn money for college and to find additional opportunities to help people out, he said.

Currently in Penobscot County 15.1 percent of the population faces food insecurity, according to the Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine. This compares to Maine’s 13.8 percent and the United States’ 12.9 percent, according to Good Shepherd. Food insecurity means an individual does not know where his or her next meal will come from. Food insecurity in children in Penobscot County is at 20.9 percent, compared to the United States’ 17.5 percent Good Shepherd indicates.

“Stamp Out Hunger” is the largest single food drive in the nation and nationwide it has been responsible for collecting more than one billion pounds of non-perishable food nationwide in more than two decades.