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Local Letter Carriers to Collect Food this Saturday

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Residents across the region are urged to place a bag of non-perishable food items by their mail box this Saturday. It will mark the 13th annual "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive.

Buffalo was one of two branches to start this food collection drive 13 years ago. Robert McLennan is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 3, in Buffalo. McLennan says thanks to the generosity of Western New Yorkers, the letter carries collected the most food in entire country the past two years.

"We do get a lot of phone calls from other branches throughout the country," McLennan said. "They ask us the different things we do and we try to give them pointers."

McLennan says at a time when unions are unfairly being criticized and blamed for the fiscal problems in Erie County, this food drive is an example of how labor reaches out to the community.

"Many unions within the AFL-CIO umbrella help us out with the food drive. They unload trucks and pick up food," McLennan said. "So this is perfect time to help out those in need, and at the same time, remind people how important the labor movement has been to the middle class in Western New York and for the rest of the country."

The food drive extends all across the eight counties of Western New York. Philip Buffone, vice president of the United Way of Niagara, says Niagara County residents have been very generous in past collections.

"In the western part of Niagara County, we collected 135,000 pounds of food last year. That was just in our service area of Niagara County," Buffone explained. "But we just want to make sure that everyone throughout Western New York knows that the food drive impacts people of all areas."

All the donations stay in the region and are distributed to the Food Bank of Western New York and local food pantries. Food Bank Executive Director Clem Eckert says more people are in need this year than last.

"Many people have been coming to our agencies for food. We have experienced an increase of about 15% from last year," Eckert said. "That is why this drive is so significant. Donations of food have been down, so we can't emphasize enough how we need this support."

Last year, local letter carriers collected more than 1.7 million pounds of food. This year, their goal is to raise two million pounds.

Buffalo Mayor Masiello believes his city will retain its top stop in collecting the most food and even made a wager with the Mayor of Milwaukee