Seeing hunger along their routes, Denver mail carriers will again collect food donations

If you get mail, you can put out food donations Saturday.
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Mayor Michael Hancock shakes hands with U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Jeff Frey on a tour of Metro Caring, May 9, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Downtown Denver letter carrier Jeff Frey is trying to make sure people on his route who need food get help, as he did when he was a child.

Frey joined his boss, Denver Postmaster Lora McLusas; Mayor Michael Hancock and anti-hunger nonprofit Metro Caring CEO Teva Sienicki at a news conference Thursday to get out the word about the annual food drive organized across the country by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Saturday, anyone who gets snail mail is asked to put out canned goods and other non-perishables for letter carriers to collect and then deliver to pantries like the one Metro Caring runs in Uptown.

Last year, carriers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands collected a total of 71.6 million pounds of food during their Stamp Out Hunger drive. Nearly 200,000 pounds was collected in Denver, and 80,000 of that was delivered to Metro Caring. Pantries at churches and at other locations and food banks also get supplies.

"This started with letter carriers seeing the need in our community," said Frey, who coordinates the drive in Colorado. "We see what's going on. We see hunger every day."

Frey said his single mom occasionally relied on donations to feed him and his four siblings when he was a boy. Sienicki shared a story similar to Frey's and Hancock said school lunch was sometimes his only meal of the day when he was young. Their testimony was a reminder that we all could know someone who is hungry. An estimated one in six children and one in 10 seniors in Denver face financial or other barriers that keep them from getting enough food at times.

Mayor Michael Hancock tours a Metro Caring cooking class. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Metro Caring CEO Teva Sienicki participates in a press conference announcing USPS' annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Thursday's snow was expected to give way to sunny skies and warmer temperatures by Saturday. Whatever the weather, "we're going to deliver your mail and we're going to pick up your food," McLusas said.

Hancock said he would put a box of food near the block of mailboxes he and several neighbors use, along with information about the drive to alert others.
"I can supply you with that flyer," Frey told the mayor.

Sienicki said she was hoping for a successful drive over the weekend. She also called attention to what she saw as the root of the problem of hunger amid a booming economy.

"Let's wake up on Monday and work for a more just and inclusive economy and society in Denver," she said.

Sienicki's organization provided food to nearly 23,000 individuals at least once during the 2018 fiscal year. Some 70 percent of those served are working, but not earning enough to make ends meet, Sienicki said.

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