The 26th annual National Association of Letter Carriers' Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive will take place this Saturday, May 12, and will again be one of the nation's largest one-day food collection events.

"Too many people in this country are going hungry," said NALC President Fredric Rolando. "We know this to be true because we see it as we deliver to every address in the United States at least six days a week."

Sadly, statistics back this up. About 49 million Americans -- almost one in six -- are unsure where their next meal is coming from. This includes 13 million children, five million seniors and three million veterans.

Since 1992, when the national food drive began, letter carriers in every part of the country have worked with other postal co-workers and allies to use the second Saturday in May as a day to give something back to the communities that know and trust them.

Last year, the food drive collected more than 72 million pounds of non-perishable food, raising the total amount of donations picked up over the drive's quarter-century to more than 1.5 billion pounds.

This year's partners are the U.S. Postal Service, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, Valpak, United Way Worldwide, the AFL-CIO and Valassis.

"These partners provide tangible support that helps to encourage the generous participation of our postal customers," said Rolando.

Locally, letter carriers are working with the Byron E. Taylor Christian Service Center in Aurora. Director Kandie Pendergrass provided a list of the items most used in the Center's emergency food boxes: mac 'n cheese, Hamburger Helper, Ramen noodles, beans, rice, oatmeal, pancake mix, syrup, pasta, pasta sauce, fruit, vegetables, soups, canned meats, instant potatoes, Jello, juice, crackers, peanut butter, cereal, Pop Tarts, sugar and flour.

To participate in the food drive on Saturday, set out your non-perishable food well before your letter carrier’s normal pick-up time. Note that he or she will be delivering and collecting mail as usual, on top of collecting food donations, so that pickup time could be slightly later than usual. Your letter carrier might also have helpers. A good rule of thumb is to have the bags by your mailbox by 9 a.m.

If your donation is not picked up, contact your local post office or simply place your donation by your mailbox on Monday instead. Letter carriers will be picking up missed donations on Monday, as well. And of course, your local food banks and pantries will gratefully accept your donation in person.