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"Stamp Out Hunger Drive" starts Saturday

Comanche County_You can help stamp out hunger this Saturday, when the National Association of Letter Carriers holds its annual food drive, to help local food banks.  You may have gotten a postcard in the mail this week, asking you to donate canned goods, and other non-perishable food items.  The post office hopes to top the success of previous years' food drives.  "Between our Lawton, Duncan, and Altus offices, we've picked up about 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of food," says Robert Johnson with the Lawton Post Office.  "So we're hoping for a little bit more this year."

On Saturday, all you have to do is leave canned goods, and non-perishable items at your mailbox - preferably in a plastic bag.  The mail carrier will collect the items and deliver them to a local food bank, where people can get the assistance they need.  Ren-E Gardner is one of those in who appreciates the assistance.  "If you don't have food stamps, or you don't have any assistance, it's good to have a place that you can come to, to help you out," she said.  "It really is, because right now I needed the help, and they sent me here."

Gardner went to the Salvation Army on Thursday to get some groceries.  She's waiting for more food stamps, and like many who use their services, she can't afford the increasing cost of food and fuel.  "They just can't make it on what most people make that come in here," says Barbara Klaassen with the Lawton Salvation Army.  "They have to come here to get help, to get food, even though some of them get food stamps."

Klaassen says the Salvation Army food pantry needs help, too.  Normally-stocked shelves are starting to become bare.  They're out of canned meat, but they do purchase other meats.  Bar-S donates some of their supply, but usually they rely on community donations.  "The canned goods and the dry goods are all donated by people that come in, and make the donations," she says.  "So we're counting on the public to help us out here."

Lawton Food Bank Director Jeri Mosiman says they fed nearly 38,000 people last year - about half of them children.  "Normally we feed about 10 families a day the first half of the month - and we've been seeing double that, closer to 20," she says.  "The last half of the month, normally we feed about 20 families per day - and we've been feeding close to 40."

As summer arrives, schools close, and many kids whose families take advantage of the food bank rely on two free or reduced meals each day at school.  "Unless they attend one of the summer feeding programs that are provided in the community, then they're home for all three meals," says Mosiman.  "So their parents are coming, and struggling, looking desperately for food to feed their families."

Seniors need help, too.  Viola Patterson, who relies on the food bank, said that this Saturday's food drive is very important to her.  She says without help from the food bank, she wouldn't have money left to pay for her prescriptions.  "I hope everybody responds to that and fill those bags," she said.  "So the rest of my senior friends can get as healthy as I am - I want them to be my size.  With healthcare costs now, there are a lot of seniors who are actually going to bed hungry at night.  They don't know about the food bank or other programs available to them, so if the Lawton Food Bank can fill their shelves, then they can fill those empty stomachs."

For more information about the "Stamp Out Hunger Drive" in your area, visit www.helpstampouthunger.com.  Wal-Mart is also collection donations as a part of the drive.

In the 7News viewing area, those cities participating will be:  Duncan - donation to United Way, Altus - donation to Southwest Community Action Community Cupboard, Frederick, Vernon, and Wichita Falls.

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