The U.S. Postal Service will collect food as it delivers mail starting Saturday, in its annual food drive organized by Harvest for the Hungry to help food banks throughout the state.
The Postal Service will leave fliers with customers, asking them for nonperishable goods, such as canned foods and peanut butter, in a collection drive that takes place from Saturday to Feb. 19 throughout most of Maryland.
The Capitol District service, which serves Prince George's and Montgomery counties, southern Maryland and Washington, will start its collection drive Feb. 14.
"It's incredible. There's nothing else I can think of that goes door to door every day. That's the key to the success," said Bill Ewing, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank, which distributes donated food to more than 900 programs for the needy statewide.
The catalyst for the campaign, Harvest for the Hungry, is a volunteer group that works year-round to link businesses, nonprofit organizations and public agencies with local food banks that collect and distribute food for the needy.
In each of its first two years of door-to-door collection, the Postal Service has collected between 500,000 pounds and 700,000 pounds of goods from participating households.
"The spirit of the postal employee is that they're all part of the community, and they all live in the community," said Richard W. Rudez, manager for customer sales and service for the Baltimore District office.
Postal workers including mail deliverers, handlers and clerks participate in the effort, Mr. Rudez said. The collection drive means extra work, especially for carriers who walk routes, but shouldn't slow mail deliveries, he added.
"It's a high-spirited thing. Everybody digs in and loves doing it," he said. "We find a way to get everything done and make it work."
Larry Adam, a Fallston resident who founded Harvest for the Hungry in 1987, said drives such as the Postal Service's can help raise awareness of the problem of hunger.
"The key thing to recognize is that hunger is a 365-day-a-year problem," he said. "Sometimes people focus on Christmas and Thanksgiving. That's great, but what happens on the other 363 days?
"Hunger takes no holiday. The same people who are hungry in December are hungry in January. This has been a particularly hard year, with the bitter weather."
Mr. Ewing, meanwhile, said the Maryland Food Bank is well-stocked, but said he expects the demand for food to increase during the next few months as high heating bills affect many family budgets.
The Maryland Food Bank has affiliated warehouses in the Baltimore region and other areas of the state. Goods collected by the Postal Service will be delivered to the closest regional food bank.