The Pine Island Food Pantry is getting ready to stock up for the summer.
The Letter Carrier's Food Drive, an effort by the United States Postal Service to raise nonperishable food items for local pantries in the Southwest Florida area, will be happening Saturday, May 11.
Debra Mitchell, Customer Relations Coordinator for a local USPS, said this is the 21st year of the Letter Carrier Drive and it's the largest single-day food drive in the country.
Eighth-grader Stephanie Boyd of Trafalgar Middle School raised over 130 pounds of food for the Pine Island Food Pantry for her community service project.
"Last year we raised over 300,000 pounds of food from our branch alone," Mitchell said.
She noted the drive covers the Fort Myers, Cape Coral and general Lee and Collier County Area.
"It's a great source for summer when donations go down," said David Grueser, president of the Pine Island Food Pantry. "It's a very important drive for us."
Grueser stressed that all food collected on the island, stays on the island.
"Prior it had been going to the Harry Chapin Food Bank. This sustains us for the dry season," Grueser said.
He mentioned the "dry season" for food donations happens as seasonal residents leave the area until next winter.
"We help a lot of people," Grueser said. "We really appreciate the support of the community."
In 2012, the Pine Island Food Pantry served over 1900 families and 5,037 people total.
"We only serve Pine Island and Matlacha, but we never turn anybody away," Grueser said.
Grueser said every little bit helps. He noted an island resident, eighth-grader Stephanie Boyd of Trafalgar Middle School, who collected food for the pantry as a community service project.
"[Stephanie's] mom called me about her community service project. She solicited her neighbors and raised over 130 pounds of food by herself," he said.
Residents who'd like to help the pantry should leave nonperishable food items near their mailboxes on the morning of May 11, or earlier. Grueser said the pantry will have volunteers going out in advance of the carriers to lighten their load.
"We can really use anything, as long as it's nonperishable," he said. "We can always use tuna, tuna helper, hamburger helper."
Mitchell said residents can leave food by their mailbox or drop it off at one of the local post offices. In some areas bags will be dropped off at each home prior to the drive.
Donations by check are also welcome, payable to the Pine Island Food Pantry.