Donations pour in during Stamp Out Hunger campaign

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
Salisbury Post
Rowan Countians contributed more than 16,000 pounds of non-perishable groceries Saturday during the 16th annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive.
Walt Ryerson, food manager for Rowan Helping Ministries, one of three agency recipients of the groceries, said more donations were still coming in late Saturday when volunteers went home.
Even without a final weight, donations were up 2,000 pounds from the more than 14,000 collected last year. It remains to be seen if this year’s donations top the 20,000 pounds of groceries collected in the 2006 Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
One thousand pounds of non-perishables, to give you an idea of how much food was collected, will fill the back of an average-sized pickup truck.
Ryerson said about 50 people ó including individuals and whole families ó volunteered to help with the food drive, some following carriers to pick up bags of canned food and boxes of cereal, rice and pasta.
“That way, if there was anything laying on the ground,” he said, “the postal carriers did not have to get out and get it.”
Some carriers also ran their routes twice to collect all the donations. “I give thanks to the postal workers because they did take the extra time to go out and bring the food back,” Ryerson said.
The donations were distributed between Rowan Helping Ministries and The Salvation Army, both in Salisbury, and Main Street Missions in China Grove. Letter carriers participating in “Stamp Out Hunger” ó the nation’s largest single-day food drive sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers ó were from Salisbury, Spencer and China Grove.
Cam Campbell, volunteer program manager for Rowan Helping Ministries, said the average number of pounds given out each day from its food bank was 1,076 from July 2007 through April 2008. This is up from the daily averages given out for the three previous years.
Campbell said the state of the economy is one reason for the increase: gas prices are up; people had to spend more money on heating bills; unemployment is up, and people are having difficulty finding jobs; and foreclosures are increasing. “I think it’s across the board,” she said.
According to a survey taken earlier this year of 100 people qualifying for assistance from Rowan Helping Ministries, Campbell said the main assistance they needed was food.
The Stamp Out Hunger food drive helps keep the food pantry stocked in the summer, she said, when churches are usually busy with other projects and aren’t doing as many food drives.
Campbell said a group of volunteers called 2nd Helping Drivers go every weekday to collect food donations from grocery stores and restaurants to ensure that the pantry is constantly replenished.
Food Lion and Harris Teeter stores donate meat as it expires, she said, which is then frozen and given out to qualifying residents with non-perishables from the food pantry.
The grocery stores also donate produce that needs to be used as well as desserts. Campbell said bags of salad which have expired are primarily used in the soup kitchen, which serves lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Holiday Inn donates food left over from its buffet. “We get a lot of that,” she said. “It’s very good food, and we can reheat that for the soup kitchen.”
The Pizza Hut on Jake Alexander Boulevard donates pizzas that have been ordered, she said, but aren’t delivered for reasons such as the customers not having enough money to pay for them.
Krispy Kreme also donates doughnuts to Rowan Helping Ministries, she said.
Its soup kitchen serves lunch and dinner to people needing food. Campbell said 75 to 150 eat lunch at the soup kitchen, with a daily average of about 110.
Dinner is only served to people who spend the night in the shelter, whose numbers range from 25 to 45 with an average of about 28.
Volunteers work in the soup kitchen, she said.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or