Mail carrier Rich Lepis picks up food donated by Chris...

Mail carrier Rich Lepis picks up food donated by Chris Flatz while on his mail route in Syosset, Saturday, May 12, 2018 Credit: J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Residents across Long Island set canned and dry food out by their mailboxes Saturday to help restock local pantries as part of the National Association of Letter Carriers 26th annual “Stamp Out Hunger” event.

“It’s the biggest one-day food drive in the country,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank based in Bethpage.

Postal carriers earlier this week dropped off notes advertising the event, as well as bags to put the donations in, said Richard Lepis, a letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office in Syosset and a coordinator of the food drive.

On Saturday Lepis and other postal workers picked up the food while doing their mail route. It’s then collected and hundreds of volunteers over a three-day period sort and pack it up for distribution by Island Harvest to its network of 500 Long Island-based food pantries, soup kitchens and other non-profit organizations that offer food service for those in need, Shubin Dresner said.

Last year the drive brought in 268,582 pounds of food from across the Island, helping to make 223,818 meals, according to a news release on the event.

“People are pretty generous,” said Lepis, who has participated in the drive for all 26 years.

“There’s over 1 million people on Long Island. If everybody put one can of something — a jar of peanut butter, jar of jelly, a box of macaroni — you’re talking a million pounds of food,” he said. “That goes a long way, feeds a lot of families, and that’s what our goal is. Our goal is to help people who need it.”

The event typically is held the Saturday before Mother’s Day, to stock the pantries prior to the end of the school year, he said.

During the school year approximately 90,000 to 100,000 children on the Island rely on school breakfast and lunch programs, Shubin Dresner said. “Families really struggle over the summer to find a way to provide those meals for their children, so they often turn to the emergency food network for assistance,” she added.

The event is really “about the issue of hunger,” she said. “I don’t think that we really talk enough about hunger in our community.”

“We sent an email to all of our employees to make sure that they knew about it and left food out,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “I think it’s just an easy way to contribute, to give food to those in need,” said Curran who also donated nonperishable food items for the event.

Steven Stecklow, 49, filled a donation bag and left it outside of his home in Syosset. “We’re always looking to help whenever we can, anybody we can,” he said of his family. And this food drive is so “simple,” he said.

It’s not too late to make a contribution, Lepis said. Residents can bring food to Island Harvest, or their local post office anytime throughout the year, he said.

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