MARIETTA - Mail carriers won't mind heavy lifting today in the name of a good cause.
Last year, carriers with Marietta branch 154, including the Marietta, McConnelsville and Belpre post offices, celebrated their second biggest collection in nearly two decades of participating in the National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, collecting more than 15 tons of food.
This year, mail carrier and event coordinator John Harding is hoping to top that again.
"My goal has always been 20 tons," he said.
Held the second Saturday of May, the national event gives communities the chance to contribute to local food pantries, simply by leaving non-perishable food and household items, but not glass items, next to the mailbox.
Several local food banks benefit from the drive each year, with the Marietta Community Food Pantry at the First Congregational Church on Front Street receiving most of the food collected from Marietta routes.
How to participate in the National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive:
* Residents along a Belpre, McConnelsville or Marietta mail route can leave nonperishable food and toiletry items, but not glass items, by their mailboxes early today.
* Volunteers who would like to collect items should meet at one of the three participating post offices between 8 and 9 a.m. today.
* Volunteers interested in helping the Marietta Community Food Pantry sort the donations can meet at the pantry at the First Congregational Church on Front Street.
That donation makes a huge difference as summer approaches and demand increases, said Nancy Broughton, director of the Marietta Community Food Pantry.
"When kids are home, they are not eating at school. Some kids were getting breakfast and lunch there," she said.
The Marietta branch averages a 10-ton collection every year and the food pantry typically gets half of that, she said. That saves the pantry a lot of money on food that would otherwise have to be purchased, said Broughton.
While the weather looks to be a little murky this weekend, Harding said that will not affect collection.
"Don't think twice because of the weather. Just like the mail being delivered, this food drive will happen rain or shine," he said.
The carriers will also have a team of volunteers, scooping up donations ahead of the mail carriers and helping them lighten the load.
Those who would like to help collect food should come to one of the three participating post offices between 8 and 9 a.m. today, said Harding.
Volunteers are also needed to help sort food at the community food pantry at 4:30 p.m., said Broughton.